France's ex-PM to go on trial in Feb over fake jobs scandal

Paris (AFP) –


Former French prime minister Francois Fillon will go on trial in February on accusations of creating a fictitious but well-paid job for his wife, which destroyed his bid to claim the presidency in 2017.

The trial of the right-winger will get underway on February 24 and last until March 11, the criminal court in Paris said.

Fillon faces charges of misusing public money over a long period from 1998 to 2013, concealing the offence, and failing to meet standards over transparency in public life.

His Welsh-born wife Penelope, who he is accused of employing to carry out next to no work, faces the lesser charges of complicity in and concealing the misuse of public money.

Fillon, 65, was widely viewed as being on course to win the French presidency before revelations published by the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaine in January 2017 shattered his credibility.

His fall from grace opened the way for centrist Emmanuel Macron to win the election and dealt a blow to Fillon's conservative Republicans party, one of the mainstays of French political life, from which it is still struggling to recover.

Over several articles, Le Canard Enchaine said it had seen payslips showing that Penelope Fillon had been paid 680,000 euros ($745,000) as a parliamentary assistant to her husband between 1986 and 2013, but had done little or no work at the National Assembly.

She had also been paid a monthly salary by a magazine owned by a billionaire friend of the couple, La Revue des Deux Mondes, despite the editor never having seen her.

The career politician, who served as prime minister under president Nicolas Sarkozy between 2007-2012, ended up finishing third in the first round of voting in April 2017 -- behind Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.