Fillon’s wife charged for ‘fake’ jobs
François and Penelope Fillon in the background in 2007.
The Welsh-born wife of French conservative presidential hopeful François Fillon has been charged in an inquiry into whether she was handed large sums for a non-job as his parliamentary assistant.
The legal authorities said Penelope Fillon, 61, had been placed under formal investigation for complicity and concealment in misappropriating public funds, concealed misuse of funds and concealed aggravated fraud.
Fillon, 63, has already been charged in the case, which has detailed the former frontrunner’s chances for the two-round election on April 23 and May 7.
Fillon and two of the couple’s children were paid more than €800,000 as parliamentary assistants over 20 years.
Between May 2012 and December 2013, Penelope Fillon was also paid about €100,000 by a literary magazine owned by one of her husband’s friends.
Media reports suggested that job was also fake, saying she wrote only two reviews.
The Fillons deny any wrongdoing.
Fillon had initially said he would withdraw if charged, but has since decided to remain in the presidential race.
Investigators allege that both jobs were fictional. The UK’s Daily Telegraph previously quoted her saying: “I have never been his assistant.”
Fillon was charged in recent weeks for misappropriating public funds and misuse of funds. His former successor as MP, Marc Joulaud, faces the same charges.
Last week, the national financial prosecution service announced that the investigation was being widened to include allegations of aggravated fraud and falsified documents in connection with the case.
Fillon was questioned on Tuesday for “several hours”, according to a legal source, and judges chose to add the serious charge of “concealed aggravated fraud” but not forgery.
French parliamentarians are entitled to employ relatives if the jobs are genuine. The financial prosecutor decided after a preliminary investigation that there was enough doubt over whether Penelope Fillon’s job was “fictitious” to continue the probe. The Fillons’ two eldest children, Marie and Charles, have also been questioned.
The official accusations against Penelope are complicity and concealment of embezzlement of public funds, complicity and concealment of abuse of social goods and complicity and concealment of fraud.
The charges raise the prospect that Fillon could be elected to the Elysée Palace and acquire presidential immunity from prosecution while in office but Penelope could face a legal trial.
Front National leader Marine Le Pen is also under investigation for allegedly using European Parliament staff allowances to pay her party staff, including a personal bodyguard.
Polling suggests Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron will win the first round of voting and go through to the second round run-off on May 7.
Picture credit: Wikimedia