Drian says he discovered his trip to Chad by reading the press

Jean-Yves Le Drian before the Senate Committee investigating the Benalla case, January 16, 2019. – Jacques Witt / SIPA

He would have discovered the trip by reading the World. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday that the French ambassador to Chad was aware of the former Elysee Alexandre Benalla's aide in that country but did not consider it useful to inform his hierarchy and that he himself was not aware that December 24.

"I learned about Mr. Benalla's visit to the country from December 5 to 6, December 24," he told the Senate commission investigating the Alexander Benalla affair. The head of the French diplomacy then seized the prosecutor of the Republic for illicit use of diplomatic passports by the former adviser of the Elysee.

According to the newspaper The world On December 24, Alexandre Benalla traveled to N'Djamena accompanied by "half a dozen people, by private plane", three weeks before Emmanuel Macron's visit to that country. The Letter from the continent had mentioned this trip as early as 12 December.

" Sure The Letter of the ContinentI did not consider that this paragraph was sufficiently significant for me to initiate a section 40 "seizure procedure of the prosecutor, he said. "On the other hand, I considered that the highly argued, very precise article of December 24 obliged me to act," he added.

"A quality private plane that lands in N'djamena never goes unnoticed"

Alexandre Benalla explained that this was a business trip, involving investment projects in Chad of "great bosses of the Middle East". He then met for two hours with Chadian President Idriss Deby.

The head of French diplomacy conceded that the French ambassador in N'djamena had been informed of this move. "On December 26, I questioned our ambassador on this subject. He informed me that he was aware of this trip and that he did not consider it necessary to report it, "said the minister. "I consider that there was a lack of appreciation of our ambassador, he has since explained it and he acknowledged his mistake, that's it," he added without further ado.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was a "regular in Chad" where he went on numerous occasions as Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs. "When we know N'djamena airport, we can imagine that a quality private plane that lands in N'djamena never goes unnoticed," he said, hinting that the ambassador had been informed of the visit from a "visual" observation at the airport.

"I do not know any intermediary and I do not want to know"

Emmanuel Macron's chief of staff, Patrick Strzoda, revealed just before the commission that the ex-Elysée collaborator had used his diplomatic passports "almost twenty times" after his dismissal at the end of July.

Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Alexander Benalla had used his diplomatic passport at least to enter Chad and Israel. "I had confirmation from both Chad and the Israeli authorities that it was the diplomatic passport that was used," he said.

The head of French diplomacy also refuted that Alexander Benalla was able to serve as an intermediary in a parallel diplomacy. "I do not know any intermediary and I do not want to know," he said. "I indicated, at the request of the President of the Republic, all of our positions that no one could claim to be intermediary with anyone," he added.

He also said that the two diplomatic passports of Alexander Benalla had been invalidated on December 28 only, almost two months after a request from the Quai d'Orsay to the Interior (November 8) in this sense, because an "incompatibility" between the computer systems of the two ministries.