Former French PM to be charged over corruption charges

25 Apr 19

Accusations that former French prime minister François Fillon made improper payments to his wife as a parliamentary assistant and to two of their children also for “fake jobs” are to lead to formal charges in the French courts.

Fillon, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2012 was standing as a presidential candidate in 2017 when the highly damaging accusations were first published in the French press, destroying his chances of winning.

Formerly a frontrunner in the elections, he was eliminated in the first round, giving a boost to the campaign of the eventual winner, Emmanuel Macron.

Fillon denies the charges, which include misuse of public funds and improper declaration of assets, condemning them as a “smear campaign” and has said that he will contest the case. Antonin Levy, his lawyer, claims that news of the prosecution was leaked to the press before Fillon was informed.

In January 2017, satirical newspaper, Le Canard Enchaine published a story alleging that Fillon’s Welsh-born wife, Penelope, had been paid a salary of €500,000 over eight years as a non-working “Parliamentary assistant” when her husband was a National Assembly member and €5,000 a month as a “literary advisor” to the Revue des Deux, a monthly magazine.

The couple’s homes in the Loire and Paris were searched by a French anti-corruption agency. The newspaper also alleges connections made by Fillon’s consultancy 2F Conseil involving a Lebanese billionaire and Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Born in Le Mans and a member of France’s largest centre right party, Fillon was first elected to parliament in 1981. At 27, he was the youngest politician in the National Assembly.

Penelope Fillon is a graduate of the University College London, where she studied French and German, and the University of Bristol Law School. She is a qualified solicitor. She met her future husband while working as a teaching assistant in Le Mans, while she was taking her law degree. The couple have five children.

In February 2017, she held a press conference at which she apologised to the French people but claimed that she had been legitimately paid. In March, following questioning by magistrates, she was placed under investigation. She too denies the charges.

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