September 10, 2019 / 2:29 PM / 8 days ago

UPDATE 2-Prosecutor investigates General Electric's France chief

(Adds lawmaker comment, details)

PARIS, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Paris prosecutors are investigating allegations of what they called an improper acquisition of interest by Hugh Bailey, head of General Electric in France, who worked as an adviser to President Emmanuel Macron when he ran the economy ministry.

General Electric called the allegations "completely baseless" and said it would cooperate with the investigation. Bailey denied the accusations, his lawyer said.

"The opening of the investigation offers Mr Bailey the opportunity to present investigators with all the elements necessary to refute the allegations against him," his lawyer, Benjamin Van Gaver, said in an emailed statement.

The investigation was opened following a legal complaint by ecologist lawmaker Delphine Batho, a judicial source said.

Batho told Reuters that as part of her work as a lawmaker in 2016, she had stumbled across 70 million euros in French state aid for GE to buy four turbines for an Iraqi power station for a contract awarded in the first quarter of that year.

She said Bailey was in charge of allocating the aid at the time, but was hired a year later by GE in a public relations role. Under French law, she said, he had not adhered to a three-year legal requirement for civil servants to wait before they join a company they have conducted business with previously.

Bailey started working at GE in France in November 2017, before stepping up to the role of general manager in April. He had previously worked as an adviser to Macron when he was the country's economy minister between 2014 and 2016.

"It's the least the prosecutors can do, because it's serious," Batho, a former environment minister, said.

Prosecutors did not immediately give details of the allegations against Bailey.

Under French law, a suspect is not formally charged with a crime unless he is sent to trial. Improper acquisition of interest can be punished in France by up to three years in prison and a fine of 300,000 euros ($220,900).

$1 = 0.9054 euros Reporting by Caroline Pailliez, Elizabeth Pineau and Richard Lough, editing by John Irish and Bernadette Baum

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