Grand French Institute for Research Under Surveillance
Authorities raided a medical research institute in the south of France on Monday, as part of an investigation for corruption linked to agreements signed with another research center for services which could have been too expensive while the presidents of the boards of the two institutions were a married couple.
According to a press release from the Marseille prosecutor’s office sent to the OCCRP on Tuesday, a preliminary investigation into the financial links between the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire Méditerranée Infection and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD) was launched in 2019. following a report submitted by the French Anti-Corruption Agency.
While Mediterranee Infection is a cutting-edge epidemiological research and care center, the Development Research Institute focuses on helping developing countries through science and innovation.
According to local media, the investigation is targeting agreements worth several hundred thousand dollars for the rental of premises, the loan of researchers and other services, signed between the two state-funded scientific institutes. It happened as their council chairmen, Yolande Obadia and Jean-Paul Moatti, were a married couple.
According to the prosecutor’s press release, the investigation also focused on “the internal use of public funds for expenses unrelated to IRD missions or unjustified”.
This is not the first time that Mediterranee Infection has been involved in scandals. The institution is headed by renowned researcher and prolific academic writer Didier Raoult, an infectologist well known for his controversial positions on the treatment of COVID-19.
Last year, Raoult promoted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the disease, despite evidence against its use in hospital patients. His colleagues accused him of breaking the code of ethics and of misinforming the public. Raoult also lodged a complaint against two critics of his research methods.
Contacted by OCCRP, Mediterranee Infection confirmed that its offices had been raided, but stressed that the investigation did not directly concern their former president and current scientific director Raoult.
The IRD was not immediately available for comment.