PARIS • Conservative candidate Francois Fillon was yesterday fighting fresh claims that he gave his family highly paid fake jobs, a scandal threatening to derail his bid to become French president later this year.
Le Canard Enchaine newspaper alleged in its new edition that Mr Fillon obtained jobs as parliamentary aides for his children as well as his wife Penelope that paid a total of around €1 million (S$1.52 million).
The fresh claims came as investigators raided Parliament and seized documents as part of a preliminary probe into a first set of charges on fake jobs the paper levelled against Mr Fillon last week.
Mr Fillon, 62, was the long-time front runner in the French presidential race and had been widely forecast to face far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the run-off in May, but the claims have hit his support.
Le Canard Enchaine alleged in its new issue out yesterday that it had unearthed proof that Penelope was paid as a parliamentary aide out of public funds available to MPs for an additional seven years, nicknaming her "Miss Moneypenny".
In another new allegation, the paper said two of the couple's five children, Marie and Charles, had earned €84,000 working as parliamentary assistants.
It said Mr Fillon employed law student Marie in 2005, just weeks after he was elected to the upper house of Parliament. Two years later, her brother took over.
Le Canard Enchaine alleged last week that Welsh-born Penelope earned around €500,000 as a parliamentary aide from 1998 to 2007.
The new claims bring the total sum she allegedly made to more than €830,000.
The paper said it could find no witnesses who could recall her working at Parliament.
In addition, Le Parisien newspaper reported that she did not have an accreditation badge or an e-mail account at the National Assembly.
Mr Fillon responded on Tuesday by claiming he was the target of a sophisticated smear campaign.
"Such a large-scale and professional campaign has been mounted just to eliminate a candidate by other means than the democratic route," he told a business conference.
He said he was "calm" about the allegations "and now I await the end of this investigation".
Mr Fillon has argued that his wife has "always" worked for him, editing his speeches and meeting people in his constituency.
French lawmakers are entitled to employ family members, but attention has focused on what work was actually done.
The claims are damaging for Mr Fillon, a devout Catholic who was a surprise winner of the right-wing nomination by campaigning on his "clean" record.
He had been favourite to win the presidency for conservative party The Republicans until a week ago, but his campaign is now threatened and party grandees are considering a Plan B without him.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS