Fillon questioned over wife’s salary 

Fillon questioned over wife’s salary 

Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope. Source: YouTube

French right-of-centre presidential candidate Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope are being interviewed about her previous work as her husband’s parliamentary aide, an anonymous source said. 

The French financial prosecutor opened an investigation into preliminary embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds last week.

The investigation followed a piece in Le Canard Enchaine satirical newspaper that Fillon’s wife, Penelope, was paid about €500,000 for duties she did not perform.

Fillon says she carried out genuine work behind the scenes.

Le Canard Enchaine has questioned how much work she did between 1998 and 2012.

Both the 62-year-old candidate and his Welsh-born wife deny any wrongdoing.

The conservative was one of the favourites in spring’s presidential election although his campaign had been losing momentum before the recent allegations.

The case is further sapping the popularity of the former conservative prime minister and could unsettle the April-May presidential polls.

Le Canard Enchaine reported last week that Penelope had been paid from state funds as a parliamentary assistant to her husband and his successor but that it could find no evidence of her having done any work.

A source reportedly said businessman Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere was also questioned because his Fimalac holding company owned the literary review La Revue des Deux Mondes, which Le Canard Enchaine claimed paid Penelope Fillon a further €100,000 for little work.

Fillon, until recently the front-runner in the race to win the two-round election, has said his wife’s work was real, and that he faced a smear campaign. He faces centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen.

Le Pen is already encouraged by the surprise result of the UK referendum on the EU and the election of Donald Trump.

The practising Catholic is an admirer of former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and defeated the more moderate Alain Juppe in a landslide at party primaries in November.

It is legal for French politicians to hire family members as long as they are genuinely employed.

Should Fillon drop out of the presidential race, time is running out for his Republicans party to choose another candidate. The party has about a fortnight to organise a new primary before the March 22 deadline approaches for all candidates to officially register for the election.

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