Former French PM François Fillon and his Welsh wife, Penelope Fillon, have received jail sentences in a fake jobs case.
Francois Fillon, 66, was found guilty of paying his wife €1.156 million ($1.3 million) for work she never did as a parliamentary aide.
The conservative politician was sentenced to five years in prison, three of them suspended. Penelope Fillon was given a three-year suspended term.
The scandal ruined Francois Fillon’s presidential bid in 2017. Both have appealed, blocking an immediate detention.
Francois Fillon is the most senior French political figure to receive a custodial sentence since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
Delivering the decision in a Paris courthouse, the presiding judge said: “The payment was disproportionate to the work done. Mrs. Fillon was hired for a position that was without use.”
Penelope Fillon was found guilty of complicity to embezzle and conceal public funds.
Both were given fines of €375,000 ($423,000). In addition, the Fillons were ordered to return more than €1 million to the National Assembly, which employed Penelope Fillon from 1998 to 2013.
Francois Fillon was also banned from public office for 10 years.
The terms matched the prosecutors’ sentence requests.
Francois Fillon has been in politics for decades. After serving as a lawmaker, senator, and in a number of ministerial roles, he became France’s prime minister between 2007 and 2012 under then-President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Ahead of the 2017 presidential election, Francois Fillon won the center-right Republican party’s presidential primary, and in January 2017 was the clear front-runner in the polls.
However, his bid for the top job fell apart later that month.
Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical magazine, alleged that Penelope Fillon – formally employed as the politician’s parliamentary assistant for about six years in the 1990s and 2000s – never actually did her job. What is more, she was paid €831,400 in the role.
Francois Fillon denied the allegations. He said his opponents were trying to sabotage his campaign, and vowed to press on with the election.
As the scandal grew he apologized “profusely” for employing family members, saying that though legal the practice had caused “mistrust”.
His poll ratings dropped sharply, Francois Fillon coming third in the first round of voting, missing out on the second-round run-off.
Le Canard Enchaîné published numerous allegations against the couple.
The magazine revealed that Penelope Fillon had made €100,000 writing just a handful of articles for a literary publication, La Revue des Deux Mondes.
La Revue des Deux Mondes is owned by a billionaire friend of the family, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière. In her ruling, the judge described that payment as an illegal gift.
From 2002 to 2007, Penelope Fillon worked for her husband’s successor as lawmaker, Marc Joulaud. He too was convicted of paying her for little or no work and has been given a three-year suspended sentence.
Other French politicians who have been convicted include late President Jacques Chirac, who in 2011 received a suspended sentence over malpractice when he was mayor of Paris.
Chirac’s one-time Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, also got a suspended sentence in a related case in 2004.
In the mid-1990s, businessman and former Socialist minister Bernard Tapie served an eight-month jail term over a football match-fixing scandal.
Jacques Chirac’s successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is currently facing two trials, for alleged corruption and illicit campaign funding.