The interim starts delicately. According to Mediapart, Agnès Firmin Le Bodo, just appointed head of the Ministry of Health, received gifts worth an estimated 20,000 euros from Urgo laboratories as a pharmacist. The minister, who rose in rank on Wednesday after the resignation of Aurélien Rousseau for disagreement over the immigration law, “is the target of a judicial investigation opened in June 2023 for having received gifts, without declaring them”, wrote, Thursday, December 21, the online information site.

Thursday evening, the public prosecutor of Le Havre, Bruno Dieudonné, confirmed to Agence France-Presse (AFP) that an investigation had been opened “on the grounds of “unauthorized perception by a health professional of benefits provided by a person producing or marketing sanitary products”, as a continuation of the case which resulted in the conviction of Urgo laboratories in January 2023 by the Dijon criminal court”.

“The secrecy of the investigation prohibits me from communicating further, in particular on the identity of the pharmacists targeted by this investigation. Over a period from the end of 2015 to the end of 2020, six of them received bonuses for a total amount of more than 12,000 euros,” added the magistrate. Asked by AFP, the minister’s entourage indicated that she would respond “only to the competent authorities”.

“Watches, bottles of wine and magnums of champagne…”

A pharmacist by profession, Ms. Firmin Le Bodo, who runs a pharmacy in Le Havre (Seine-Maritime), “is suspected of having had luxury products delivered to her on 21 occasions, from 2015 to 2020 – watches, bottles of wine and magnums of champagne, boxes for weekends, etc. − for a total amount estimated at 20,000 euros, from Urgo laboratories,” according to Mediapart. “Urgo thus sought to retain pharmacists and increase their commercial margins,” continues Mediapart.

In January 2023, Urgo laboratories were fined 1,125,000 euros, including 625,000 suspended, for offering gifts to pharmacists, in return for giving up commercial discounts. These practices constitute an infringement of the so-called “anti-gifts” law adopted in 1993.

According to Mediapart, “a second part of the case” has begun, with justice looking into all the pharmacists who received gifts. In Normandy, the General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) is dealing with around forty files. “The lightest cases (less than 1,000 euros of gratuity) are classified. While the other files give rise to the opening of a preliminary investigation, in June 2023,” explains the newspaper, according to which Ms. Firmin Le Bodo is “among the largest presumed beneficiaries.”