The investigation comes after a TV report aired on M6 on Friday, showing hidden camera footage of two luxury restaurants full of mask-free guests.
In the video, a journalist in disguise enters a private dining club with shutters closed and is greeted by a waiter wearing white gloves. She was asked who was invited on her behalf and was told: “Once you enter the door, there is no longer Covid.”
The owner of the restaurant is overheard explaining that the menu starts at € 160 ($ 190) per person. For € 490 ($ 580), diners can sip champagne while eating foie gras with truffles and langoustines in ginger dressing.
A spokesman for the Attorney General in Paris told CNN Monday: “We are looking into possible charges of endangerment and undeclared work.” “We will check if the gatherings have been organized in violation of sanitary rules and determine who are the organizers and potential participants.”
The video continues to show another dinner party taking place in lavish surroundings, with large furnishings and gilded paintings. Guests are seen giving each other “la bise” and kissing each other’s cheek.
The organizer appears to be claiming: “This week I had dinner in two or three restaurants, the so-called underground restaurants, with a certain number of ministers.”
Due to the distinctive decor, the restaurant was later identified as Palais Vivienne owned by Pierre-Jean Chalençon.
Challinson’s attorney released a statement on Sunday admitting that the distorted voice in the video belonged to his client, but he was joking when he said government ministers attended the dinner.
The scandal angered many online, with the hashtag #OnVeutLesNoms (We Want The Names) spread on Twitter on Monday.
Government spokesman Gabriel Atal told LCI news on Sunday that authorities have been investigating reports of illegal parties for months and that 200 suspects have so far been identified. “They will face severe punishment,” added Atal.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that restaurants have closed in France since last month. It has been closed since last year. This has been corrected.