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Police raid offices of French presidential hopeful’s wife as ‘€500,000’ scandal deepens

AFP archive | Former prime minister and presidential hopeful François Fillon with his wife Penelope.

French investigators have searched the offices of a magazine as part of a widening inquiry into whether presidential candidate Francois Fillon's wife was paid for allegedly fictitious jobs, sources told AFP Saturday.

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The raid late Thursday at La Revue des Deux Mondes follows the launch of the investigation into Penelope Fillon's role at the literary monthly, owned by a billionaire friend of her husband, as well as in the French parliament, where she was paid 500,000 euros ($534,000) from public funds over more than a decade.

The satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine, which broke the story, said the Welsh-born Penelope Fillon had done nothing to earn her salary at the legislature, since it had been unable to find anyone who remembered her working there.

The newspaper also alleged that in 2012 and 2013, Penelope Fillon was paid 5,000 euros a month at La Revue des Deux Mondes, owned by Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, 76.

In a separate development, a French watchdog for political ethics said Saturday it had handed investigators Fillon's declaration of wealth and business interests.

The High Authority for Transparency in Public Office (HATVP) confirmed a report on the radio station Europe 1, saying it handed over the information in response to a judicial request.

The HATVP was set up in 2013 with the aim of improving transparency and accountability in French politics after a string of high-profile scandals. It is the repository of legislators' declarations and issues rulings on conflicts of interest.

Selected in a primary election on November to be the presidential candidate of the conservative Republicans party, Fillon has suffered a slump in popularity ratings following the revelations.

An opinion poll on Friday found that 38 percent of voters across the political spectrum had a "good opinion" of the former prime minister.

That was a drop of four points from a poll on January 8, and 16 points less than in early November, according to the Odoxa survey of 1,012 people.

Fillon said in a TV interview Thursday that he was "disgusted" at the allegations that his wife had done nothing to earn half a million euros from public funds.

He said his wife had "always worked for me" during his four-decade political career and listed tasks she had carried out, including "editing my speeches" and representing him at events.

La Revue des Deux Mondes ("The Review of the Two Worlds") traces its roots to the French literary scene of the early 19th century.

Contributors have included giants such as George Sand, Alexandre Dumas and Alphonse de Musset.

The magazine today is focussed on politics and literarature and, coincidentally, devoted its front page this month to Fillon.

(AFP)

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