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Dieschbourg resigns over building permit investigation

Dieschbourg resigns over building permit investigation

by Yannick LAMBERT 3 min. 22.04.2022 From our online archive
Environment Minister steps down from post after controversy linked to approval of permit given to a fellow party member in 2019
Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg
Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg
Photo credit: Chris Karaba

Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg resigned from her post on Friday morning, after the public prosecutor's office requested that parliament lift her immunity in an investigation into the approval of a building permit granted to a fellow party member in 2019.

Claude Turmes, the Energy Minister, will take over Dieschbourg's role in the interim.

Dieschbourg has denied any wrongdoing in relation to the granting of the permit to the former mayor of Differdange, fellow Green Party politician Roberto Traversini, over a garden shed he built in 2019, and re-iterated that denial on Friday.  

"We don't have the time to go through all of this again in parliament", Dieschbourg said at the press conference on Friday, saying there are bigger challenges ahead. The only option remaining, she said, apart from the lifting of her immunity by parliament - which she initially supported - was to resign so she could face prosecutors.

A minister offering their resignation following a scandal, common in other countries such as Germany, is a rare occurrence in Luxembourg. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel brushed off criticism earlier this year when a journalistic exposé revealed that he had plagiarised the vast majority of his thesis. Bettel, who asked the University of Nancy to rescind his postgraduate degree following the reports, continued in his post despite anger from opposition parties.

In 2019, Traversini stepped down over the construction of a large garden shed in a protected zone, which was retroactively approved by the environment ministry. Even though permits for loss of wildlife can be granted retroactively for regular building sites, this is normally not the case for nature protected zones.  

"The public prosecutor's office sent an official request to parliament to waive my ministerial immunity in the context of the preliminary investigation into the 'Gaardenhaischen' affair", Dieschbourg said in a statement issued before her resignation.

"Since 2019, personally and through my lawyer, I have repeatedly emphasised that I support this investigation", Dieschbourg said.

The public prosecutor’s office previously seized documents in the environment ministry as part of an investigation into Dieschbourg's conduct. CSV lawmaker Michel Wolter, among others, accused her of violating a nature conservation law and of showing favouritism towards Traversini.

Dieschbourg had also been the focus of media and parliament this year over a €100 million contract her ministry handed to a waste management company after a legal opinion found there was no basis in law to award the tender.

Only parliament has the "discretionary power to accuse a member of the government", the prosecutor’s office said, citing the Grand Duchy's constitution.

Had Dieschbourg not resigned, parliament could have taken steps, such as referring the case to a court or creating an investigative committee, which would require two-thirds of the vote.

The decision on whether or not to waive immunity is taken by a simple majority vote in a public session of parliament. Dieschbourg's Greens are in the majority governing coalition along with the LSAP and the Democratic Party.

Alex Bodry, a member of the State Council and a constitutional expert, told public broadcaster 100,7 on Friday morning that the procedure which leads to parliament formally charging a minister has never been previously enforced.

A proposed constitutional reform, not yet approved, seeks to remove parliament's right to waive immunity. 

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