French parliament seeks €1 million from former PM Fillon in 'fake jobs' scandal
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The French parliament will seek more than €1 million in damages from conservative former prime minister François Fillon and his co-accused over the public funds that were allegedly paid to Fillon’s wife for a fake post she occupied, a lawyer for the National Assembly said.
In a trial that will run from February 24 to March 11, Fillon, his wife Penelope and his parliamentary aide Marc Joulaud will have to answer questions about the fake jobs scandal that destroyed Fillon’s 2017 presidential campaign.
Once a favourite to win the Élysée Palace, Fillon’s campaign was plunged into crisis when a satirical weekly reported that Penelope had been paid hundreds of thousands of euros for doing little work, including serving several years as his parliamentary assistant.
The National Assembly (lower house), which is a claimant in the case, will seek damages worth €1.08 million related to the parliamentary mandate of Fillon and Joulaud, who replaced Fillon while he was a government member, National Assembly lawyer Yves Claisse told Reuters.
The claims cover a period from the mid-1980s to 2013.
On a France 2 televison programme on January 30, Fillon denied that his wife had been paid handsomely as a parliamentary assistant who did little actual work.
“She was my main and most important staff member ... I will provide proof during the trial,” he said.
But Penelope Fillon apparently told the British newspaper the Sunday Telegraph in 2007 that she had "never worked for her husband", according to journalist Elise Lucet of France 2’s Envoyé Special television programme.
“The photographer accompanying them filmed the entire interview, and caught everything she said,” Lucet's colleague Yves Martinet told France's BFMTV. “This included her saying she had never been her husband’s assistant, and had never done any communications work for him either.”
Penelope Fillon’s lawyer, Pierre Cornut-Gentille, defended his client, saying her comments were taken out of context.
When the "PenelopeGate" scandal broke, Fillon denounced what he called a campaign of dirty tricks and denied having done anything illegal, though he admitted to an error of judgment.
Prime minister during Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007-2012 presidency, Fillon resisted pressure from inside his Les Républicains party to pull out of the 2017 presidential campaign but was eliminated in the first round of the election, which President Emmanuel Macron went on to win in the second round.
Fillon now works for investment management firm Tikehau Capital.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
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