Head of French Covid victims group sues firms hired to manage pandemic

The three private companies were hired to help organise the storage and delivery of masks and vaccines, but are now caught up in a corruption scandal

A court case
Three companies have been accused of corruption and concealing favouritism

The head of a Covid victims association in France has filed a lawsuit against three private consultancy firms hired by the Ministry of Health to manage logistics during the pandemic, including the storage and delivery of masks and vaccines.

Julie Grasset, whose father died aged 67 of Covid in 2020, has lodged a complaint against McKinsey, JLL France and Citwell for “corruption” and “concealment of favouritism” with the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (parquet national financier, PNF).

The controversy surrounding the three private consultancy companies came to light in mid-March following a report by a committee of enquiry in the Senate, and has been dubbed the “McKinsey affair”.

It found that the Health Ministry’s consultancy expenditure increased from €379.1 million in 2018 to €893.9 million in 2021.

“It is reasonable to believe that the management of the health crisis by consultancy firms that were incompetent in medical and health matters was particularly bad,” Ms Grasset’s lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, stated as part of the lawsuit.

He said that the choice to hire them “prevented an effective public policy from being put in place to prevent the spread of Covid”.

“Certain firms were favoured by the Ministry of Health. The conditions under which these contracts were awarded during the health crisis are unclear and suggest that no advertising or competitive bidding was carried out.

“In view of the apparent links between the consultancy firms and Ministry of Health officials, there is reason to believe that acts of corruption may have been committed by some members of the consultancy firms in order to obtain contracts from the Ministry of Health in connection with the health crisis,” he said.

Mr Bouzrou called for a judicial inquiry to be opened "as soon as possible" and for the investigations to be carried out by "an independent magistrate".

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that if evidence comes to light of corruption then the matter should be settled in criminal courts.

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