Embroiled in controversy, Geneva President Pierre Maudet temporarily stepped down from his role as head of the cantonal government, the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA reported on Thursday.
Maudet, who has been under scrutiny since admitting to an expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi in 2015, is also giving up hierarchical responsibility for oversight of the police.
The announcementexternal link at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday comes after a report by Swiss public broadcaster SRF revealed documents showing that Lebanese businessmen linked to Maudet are involved in a construction project near the city’s airport.
The presidential department is temporarily entrusted to Antonio Hodgers, the cantonal vice-president. Responsibility for the Geneva police was given to Mauro Poggia, deputy head of the security department.
This new division of tasks was decided at an extraordinary session of the Geneva government on Thursday morning.
The decision comes as Maudet faces an investigation by the Geneva public prosecutor for possible “acceptance of a benefit”external link linked to the trip he made with his family to Abu Dhabi in November 2015.
"Hidden part of the truth"
The former Federal Council candidate initially said that it was a private trip, paid for by a friend. But the head of Geneva’s cantonal government last week acknowledged “having hidden part of the truth”.
The public prosecutor claims Maudet accepted flights and accommodation for himself, his family, and his chief of staff amounting to several tens of thousands of Swiss francs. It says the costs were paid for by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed bin Al-Nahyan, who had invited him to watch a Formula 1 race.
It adds that there were several members of the Geneva property sector involved in the organisation of the trip, without giving further information.
On Thursday, the Geneva government said in a statement that it deplored the fact that Maudet had given false information to the government several times and had violated rules of protocol and acceptance of gifts.
The statement said Maudet had announced his decision to temporarily hand over the presidency to "preserve the serenity of the institutions" and to extend the "watertight perimeter" between the Geneva prosecutor's office and the department of security, of which Maudet is in charge.