Paris, Dec 31 (AFP) The French presidency on Monday accused Emmanuel Macron’s disgraced ex-bodyguard of being bent on revenge after he claimed to be in regular contact with the centrist leader despite being sacked in July. Also Read - Elaborate Arrangements in Place For Polls to Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Today

Alexandre Benalla caused the biggest scandal to date of Macron’s presidency after he was caught on video roughing up protesters at a demonstration in May while wearing a police helmet. Also Read - Centre Invites Protesting Farmers to Hold Talks Today Even as They Vow to Continue Agitation | 10 Points

Macron was accused of covering up for him after it emerged that he had known about the video but did not sack Benalla until the affair was revealed by Le Monde newspaper. Also Read - Madhya Pradesh Govt In Process of Bringing Love Jihad Law: CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Benalla caused more embarrassing headlines for his embattled 41-year-old former boss last week when it emerged he had retained his diplomatic passports even after losing his job, using them to travel abroad to meet with foreign dignitaries.

In an interview with investigative website Mediapart, Benalla said Sunday that he continued giving advice to Macron via the Telegram messaging app, which the president uses intensively.

“We exchange messages on lots of different subjects. It’s often like, ‘how do you see things’. It could be about the ‘yellow vests’ (protest movement), the views on someone or security issues,” Benalla said.

He told BFMTV network the pair had exchanged messages as recently as December 24.

In a statement to AFP Macron’s office accused Benalla of “wanting to avenge his sacking by peddling a host of untruths and inaccuracies”.

The foreign ministry said it had unsuccessfully tried to recover Benalla’s diplomatic documents and that it had launched a process to have them annulled.

Benalla, a 27-year-old former bouncer, began working as a bodyguard for Macron during his election campaign in 2016 before being promoted to a senior security role in the presidential palace in May 2017.

Benalla’s role and the ties between the two men have been the focus of intense media scrutiny.

The French president is to give a televised New Year’s address later on Monday evening at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) — the same time as “yellow vest” protesters have called for a new demonstration on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

The protest movement, which swelled up from rural and small-town France in November, has waned in intensity in recent weeks after Macron announced a series of measures for low-income families.

Benalla has admitting visiting around a dozen African countries in recent months for “consulting” purposes and claimed he always gave an account of his trips to the president or his aides.

He added, however, that since the revelations about his diplomatic passport emerged “the link has been cut” with the presidency.

He denied suggestions from the foreign ministry that he had used his diplomatic passports illegally, something which prosecutors are now examining.

“If they don’t want me to use these passports, they could deactivate them,” he said. (AFP) SCY SCY

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.