Fillon's wife charged in fund abuse scandal

Mrs Fillon has been charged with complicity in the fund abuse scandal engulfing her husband's presidential campaign.
Mrs Fillon has been charged with complicity in the fund abuse scandal engulfing her husband's presidential campaign.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PARIS • The wife of France's conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon has been charged with complicity in the abuse of public funds in a scandal that has engulfed her husband's campaign.

Mr Fillon has already been charged in the case involving allegedly fictitious jobs as a parliamentary aide, for which the Welsh-born Mrs Penelope Fillon, 61, was supposedly paid hundreds of thousands of euros.

She was also charged over a salary she allegedly received from a literary magazine owned by a billionaire friend of her husband's, Mr Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere. But Mrs Fillon told police she never stepped foot in the offices of the Revue des Deux Mondes magazine, said a report in the Journal du Dimanche weekly.

The new blow comes less than four weeks before French voters go to the polls in a two-stage election on April 23 and May 7.

Mr Fillon, 63, whose legal woes have snowballed since "Penelopegate" broke in January, once described his wife as a stalwart companion who "has been with me in political life for 30 years... but always in the shadows".

Revelations by the satirical and investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaine turned a harsh media glare on a woman that no one could recall seeing at work in the halls of Parliament. Although a lawmaker's employment of a relative is not illegal, Mrs Fillon is accused of doing little for the €680,000 she received in salary over a number of years.

But Mr Fillon has repeatedly claimed that he is the victim of a "political assassination". Last week he also accused Socialist President Francois Hollande of using the finance ministry to collect information on politicians, including former prime minister Manuel Valls, which was then leaked to the press.

Mr Fillon, who overcame intense pressure to quit the presidential race early this month, was once the clear favourite, but opinion polls now show him failing to get past the first round. If the election were held today, the May 7 run-off would pit far-right leader Marine Le Pen against centrist Emmanuel Macron, polls show. Mr Macron, 39, is currently tipped to defeat Ms Le Pen, 48, by a wide margin.

Last week, financial prosecutors said they were expanding the fake jobs probe to include suspicions of forgery. Investigators are looking at whether the Fillons forged documents to justify Mrs Fillon's salary.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'Fillon's wife charged in fund abuse scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe