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Le Pen aide placed under formal investigation in graft probe

Joseph Eid, AFP | France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (C) in Bekerke, north of Beirut, Lebanon, on February 21, 2017.

The personal assistant of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was charged Wednesday in a deepening scandal over "fake jobs" at the European Parliament.

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Catherine Griset, Le Pen's long-time chief of staff, was charged with breach of trust in a probe into allegations the candidate's National Front (FN) party defrauded the European Parliament of about 340,000 euros.

French anti-graft police earlier questioned Griset and Le Pen’s personal bodyguard, Thierry Légier, over suspicions that the FN misused public funds.

Légier was released without charges after the grilling, but Griset now faces further legal scrutiny.

The European Parliament accuses Le Pen, a deputy in the chamber, of using parliamentary funds to pay Légier and Griset while they worked for the FN elsewhere.

The body began docking half of Le Pen's parliamentary salary of 16,000 euros this month after she refused to repay the funds.

The FN leader has angrily denied the allegations, and on Wednesday again described the investigation as a vendetta against her.

"The French people are well aware of the difference between genuine cases and political intrigues," she told reporters at a campaign stop.

On Monday, police raided the FN's Nanterre headquarters for a second time, the party said.

Despite the allegations, Le Pen is riding high ahead of France's two-stage presidential election on April 23 and May 7 election.

Opinion polls currently show her winning the first round but failing to garner the more than 50 percent of votes needed for victory in the second round.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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