François Fillon’s wife Penelope was paid more than €900,000 for work she allegedly didn’t perform, according to investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which claims the embattled presidential candidate also hired two of his children.
The report by the satirical and investigative weekly, which first broke the story last week, almost doubles the amount Penelope Fillon is claimed to have earned from jobs her husband got her.
It claims that the conservative presidential candidate also employed two of his five children as parliamentary assistants while he was a senator, earning a further 84,000 euros.
Under French law it is not illegal for MPs to employ family members as assistants, provided they actually do the work.
The Canard, as it is known in France, claimed last week it could find no evidence that Mrs Fillon had been doing her job as parliamentary assistant for her husband and later another MP.
It said she had earned as much as €7,000 per month, in addition to money earned for her work at a literary review owned by a family friend, whose former editor said he had never seen her.
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Tuesday’s new allegations come hours after investigators searched parliamentary offices as part of a preliminary inquiry into the case. They mark the latest twist in a suspected embezzlement scandal that has already damaged Fillon’s presidential bid.
Fillon, who served as France’s prime minister from 2007 to 2012 and has since served as a member of parliament, won the conservative Les Républicains party’s presidential nomination in November.
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He has since been touted as the frontrunner in the election, but in recent days has struggled to respond to the allegations involving his wife.
French financial prosecutors launched a preliminary probe into embezzlement and abuse of public funds in the wake of the newspaper report.
MP Christian Jacob, the parliamentary leader of Les Républicains, on Tuesday confirmed that parliamentary offices had been raided, but defended Fillon.
“François Fillon himself has asked for the investigation to proceed quickly, and the justice system must do its work,” Jacob told reporters at the National Assembly. “But what I can tell you as that all Républicains lawmakers support François Fillon and are standing behind our candidate.”
The Fillon couple was interviewed on Monday afternoon by investigators, who are trying to determine if their preliminary probe should lead to a full judicial enquiry.
The conservative former premier has said he would abandon his presidential bid if placed under formal criminal investigation. A formal enquiry by an investigating magistrate could take months to reach a conclusion.
Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière – a businessman and friend of Fillon – has also been questioned in connection to the allegations. He owns the literary review La Revue des Deux Mondes, which Le Canard Enchaîné said paid Penelope Fillon another 100,000 euros for very little work.
Fillon has defended his wife’s work as real. Declaring his love for her at a political rally in Paris on Sunday, he repeated that the allegations are nothing but a smear campaign against them.
The preliminary probe has nevertheless knocked his campaign off course and dented the wholesome image the devout Catholic has cultivated.
'It's looking pretty bad' for French conservative candidate Fillon
If Fillon drops his presidential bid, time is running out for the main opposition Républicains party to choose another candidate.
Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, the runner-up in France’s conservative primary, on Friday rejected the idea that he could fill in as the presidential candidate if Fillon exits the race.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-01-31