The investigation follows an M6 television report that aired Friday, showing hidden camera footage of two upscale restaurants filled with maskless guests.
In the video, an undercover reporter walks into a private dining club with closed shutters and is greeted by a waiter wearing white gloves. She is asked on whose behalf she has been invited and she is told: “Once you walk in the door, there is no more Covid.”
We hear the butler explain that the menu starts at 160 euros ($ 190) per person. For 490 euros ($ 580), diners can sip champagne while feasting on foie gras with truffles and langoustine in a ginger sauce.
“We are examining possible charges of endangerment and undeclared work,” a spokesperson for the Paris prosecutor told CNN on Monday. “We will check to see if the rallies were held in violation of health regulations and determine who the organizers and potential participants were.”
A new “limited lockdown” took effect last week, as President Emmanuel Macron warned the country was at risk of “losing control” of the pandemic.
The video shows another dinner held in a lavish setting with large tapestries and golden paintings. We see the guests kissing each other cheek to cheek.
The organizer seems to affirm: “This week, I dined in two or three restaurants, known as clandestine, with a certain number of ministers”.
Due to its recognizable decor, the restaurant was later identified as Palais Vivienne owned by Pierre-Jean Chalençon.
Chalençon’s lawyer released a statement on Sunday acknowledging that the distorted voice on the video belonged to his client, but was joking when he said government ministers attended dinners.
The scandal angered many Internet users, with the hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We Want The Names) on Twitter on Monday.
Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told LCI news channel on Sunday that authorities had been investigating reports of illegal parties for months and that 200 suspects had been identified so far. “They will face a heavy punishment,” Attal added.