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François Fillon's wife Penelope faces French investigative judges

Lionel Bonaventure, AFP|Penelope Fillon, the wife of French presidential election candidate for the right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party, leaves her appartment building on March 27, 2017 in Paris.

Penelope Fillon, wife of embattled French presidential candidate François Fillon, is set to appear before a trio of investigating judges today as part of an investigation into allegedly fraudulent payments the candidate made to family members.

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What is this all about?

François Fillon has been accused of improperly paying his wife and two of his children nearly a million euros in state funds for work they allegedly didn’t do or, in the case of his children, were scarcely qualified to do. The allegedly fraudulent payments were made between 1986 and 2013, while Fillon was serving as a member of parliament and a senator.

What is Penelope’s role in the scandal?

Penelope was paid about 700,000 euros to work as a legislative assistant for her husband. The couple maintains that the employment was legitimate, but investigators are looking for evidence that she actually did any work.

Are there any other accusations?

The couple has also been accused of forgery in relation to the jobs scandal. The Parisien newspaper reported that contracts have emerged from 2012 that show Penelope earning 5,000 euros a month working full-time at the Revue des Deux Mondes, a monthly literary and cultural magazine, and at the same time being paid 3,872 euros per month as her husband’s parliamentary assistant.

What does Penelope say about all of this?

Madame Fillon has kept a remarkably low profile since the scandal broke, but in 2007 she told UK newspaper The Telegraph in a videotaped interview that she never worked for her husband.

"I have never actually been his assistant or anything like that,” she said. “I don't deal with his communication."

What’s at stake for Penelope?

Penelope has already been interrogated several times in connection with the investigation against her husband. Today’s appearance could lead to preliminary charges against her personally.

Would charges against Penelope hurt Fillon’s candidacy?

Fillon has already been charged for embezzlement himself, so voters who still support him are unlikely to be deterred by charges against his wife. Many of them consider the investigation a political witch hunt aimed at keeping the Left in power.

What are Fillon’s chances of winning?

Once the favourite to win the presidency, the scandal has hurt his candidacy, and many in his party were urging him to step aside in favour of Alain Juppé, the runner up in the primary of Les Républicains, Fillon’s party. Fillon has steadfastly refused to do so and, today, trails frontrunners Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron by six to seven percentage points, according to the latest Ipsos poll. Despite being severely wounded by the defections of several key operatives and the hemorrhaging of public support, the campaign staggers on.

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