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francois fillon scandal


Francois Fillon has been placed under formal investigation over an alleged diversion of public funds, French prosecutors say.

The center-right presidential candidate is suspected of paying hundreds of thousands of euros to his family for work they may not have done.

Francois Fillon denies wrongdoing, but had earlier said he would quit the presidential race if placed under investigation.

Until recently, he was the favorite to win the elections in April and May.

However, the former prime minister has now slipped behind far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Image source Wikimedia

On March 14, Francois Fillon, 63, was personally placed under formal investigation over suspicions that he arranged for his wife Penelope to be paid public money for work as his parliamentary assistant which she did not actually carry out.

Francois Fillon is also being investigated over payments to his two children Marie and Charles when he was a senator. He has said his children were paid as lawyers, for specific tasks. But neither was a qualified lawyer at the time.

In all, Francois Fillon is suspected of diverting public funds, complicity in misappropriating funds, receiving the funds and not declaring assets fully.

A magistrate had already been investigating the case, but until now the inquiry did not mention directly Francois Fillon.

The embarrassment is acute because this is the same Francois Fillon who before the campaign said it would be inconceivable for someone to remain as a candidate if placed in this legal situation, our correspondent adds.

In a separate development on March 14, French media report that Marine Le Pen is now suspected by the country’s tax authorities of undervaluing her share of two properties jointly owned with her father Jean Marie Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen has made no public comment on the issue.

Former French PM Alain Juppe has no intention to replace under-fire presidential hopeful Francois Fillon, despite pressure to do so.

Francois Fillon has denied allegations that members of his family were paid taxpayers’ money for fictitious jobs.

He has lost support within the center-right party and in opinion polls ahead of the first round of voting in April.

Alain Juppe, seen as his most likely replacement, attacked his rival’s “obstinacy” but said he would not run.

According to opinion polls, Alain Juppe would have progressed into the second round of the election. Francois Fillon is not projected to make it past the first round.

They have been rumbling on for more than a month now – and the longer they have gone on, the more Francois Fillon has dug in (seemingly at the expense of his own chances of the presidency).

The former prime minister has fought allegations that his Welsh-born wife, Penelope, was paid for a number of years for work that she did not do as his parliamentary assistant.

Image source Wikimedia

However, Penelope Fillon, who insists she did work for her husband, told French magazine Journal du Dimanche last week that “everything was legal and declared”.

Also under scrutiny are claims that two of Francois Fillon’ children, Marie and Charles, were paid by their father’s office for legal work even though they had not yet qualified as lawyers.

At a mass rally in Paris on March 5, Francois Fillon told tens of thousands of supporters, once again, that he would fight on.

However, key members of his campaign team have abandoned him and several leading Republicans have wavered in their support.

Alain Juppe, like Francois Fillon a former prime minister, did not hold back against any of the leading candidates on March 6.

However, he reserved his angriest comments for Francois Fillon, whose talk of a plot, and criticism of judges and the media, “has led him into a dead-end”.

“What a waste,” he said.

The pressure on Francois Fillon is likely to grow next week, when he is due to appear before a judge to be placed under formal investigation for embezzlement.

In the short-term, Francois Fillon’s party will hold a unity summit on March 6, a meeting he has been urged to attend.

His drop in favorability and Alain Juppe’s decision look like clearing the way for the young centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron to battle it out against Marine Le Pen in the second round. Polls give him a clear edge over the National Front candidate.

A big question mark now hangs over former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Defeated in the first Republican primary by Alain Juppe and Francois Fillon, he had called for an emergency meeting between the three of them.