French investigators have opened a legal probe into the pay of Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet, a legal source said Tuesday, in an embarrassing development six months before the Games begin.

The enquiry by magistrates specialised in financial crimes began "last week" and will look into the manner in which Estanguet receives his pay as head of the organising committee, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The triple gold medal-winning Olympic canoeist had so far been spared the legal problems that have embroiled other members of the Paris Olympics organising team.

His annual remuneration of 270,000 euros ($290,000) before tax and bonuses was made public in 2018 after a furore over reports that he would receive almost double that amount.

But according to revelations in the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaine last October, Estanguet uses his own company to bill the organising committee monthly, instead of drawing a salary.

The arrangement is to avoid a salary cap imposed on charities with the same status as the organising committee.

A spokesperson for the committee said it was "astonished" by news of the investigation, given that Estanguet's package had been approved by the board and officials in the economy ministry.

The probe is a major blow for the 45-year-old, the public face of the Paris Olympics, who is seeking to focus attention on preparations for the sporting events at the July 26-August 11 Games.

The Olympics have been repeatedly tarnished by corruption in the past, either over the manner in which the Games were awarded or through the lucrative construction and services contracts that are part of the event.

- Legal woes -

The Paris organising committee was already the subject of three separate investigations into the possible misuse of public money and favouritism in the awarding of contracts.

The offices of the committee and Games infrastructure group Solideo have been searched by police, as have the homes of two other senior figures in the organising committee, Etienne Thobois and Edouard Donnelly.

Those cases revolve in part around sports management or events companies founded by senior Games staff before they started working for the Paris 2024 organising committee.

Around 20 different contracts are under the microscope, totalling tens of million of euros, one judicial source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

France's Anti-Corruption Agency had flagged possible problems with Estanguet's pay arrangement in a report in 2021 because of the organising committee's status as a charity.

The spokesperson said that his pay had been approved by the organisation's pay committee, composed of independent experts, and approved by the Economic and Financial Controller General in the economy ministry.

Given that Estanguet usually chairs the board, it had met without him when discussing his remuneration, the spokesperson said.

- Nearly ready -

Organisers of Paris 2024 have been determined to showcase a different sort of Olympics, shorn of the common problems of vast over-spending, wasteful infrastructure investment, and corruption.

The 2016 Rio Olympics left the city near bankrupt, while large-scale graft allegations shocked the general public.

The former Brazilian Olympics boss and the governor of the city were both convicted afterwards.

Several businessmen have also been found guilty of bribing a Tokyo Olympics committee member in a scandal that soured the mood over the 2020 Games held in the Japanese capital a year later due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the legal problems, the Paris Games appear broadly on track, with almost all of the main building work finished and the budget over-spend relatively small compared with past editions.

This week will see the committee unveil the medal designs, while a brand new venue which is set to host the basketball and rhythmic gymnastics will open its doors at the weekend.

The athletes' village is set to be inaugurated by President Emmanuel Macron on February 29.

The French sports world, including football, rugby and tennis, has been shaken by a string of scandals in recent years.

The head of the French Football Federation, Noel Le Graet, stepped down last year after accusations of sexual harassment, while the head of the rugby federation was convicted of corruption.