French UMP chief to resign amid funding probe

Jean-Francois Cope will resign on June 15 as head of France's main opposition UMP party after allegations of irregularities in the finances of the conservative party, a UMP source said on Tuesday after a crisis meeting of party bosses.

The move effectively launches the race to secure the UMP ticket to stand in the 2017 presidential election, with ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, and former prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe all seen waiting in the wings.

Patrick Kovarik | AFP | Getty Images

The party's finances have been the subject of a preliminary legal inquiry after allegations that an events company hired for Sarkozy's 2012 re-election bid was ordered by party officials to produce millions of euros' worth of fake invoices to cover campaign cost over-runs.

Cope, who was party general secretary at the time, has repeatedly stated he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing.

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