Money troubles in French Politics

In less than 100 days, France will elect its new President. The French right wing of the political spectrum has been hit by what Frenchies call “stink bombs”: political and justice affairs which come up a few weeks before the election to bring discredit upon a candidate.

Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical newspaper, revealed that Penelope Fillon, wife of Francois Fillon, candidate of the right party, received more than 500.000 euros for working during 10 years as a parliamentary assistant for his husband. The story is now known as the “Penelope Gate”.

It is believed she has never worked as a parliamentary assistant, has never been to the house of Parliament, did not have an ID badge nor a professional email address. Le Canard Enchaine alleged the job was actually non-existent and that indeed, presidential candidate Francois Fillon paid his wife for years for a fake job.

Fillon sinks in polls

The investigative TV show “Envoye special” shared a tape of an interview between Penelope Fillon and British journalist Kim Willsher from 2007, where the presidential candidate’s Welsh-born wife affirms she has never worked for her husband.

Investigators are searching Fillon’s office and house of Parliament for proofs. The allegations are sapping the popularity of the former prime Minister and could shake up the presidential campaign. On 6 February, he declared that, despite the investigation, he is still campaigning. His place is now falling in the polls and it is believed he would be eliminated in the first-round vote by former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen refuses to repay €300,000 in ‘misspent’ EU funds

But there is a candidate that would, according to all polls, reach the second round: Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party Front National even tough she got in trouble with the European authorities. She has refused a demand to repay nearly €300,000 (£258,000) of EU funds that a European parliament investigation alleged she misspent.

“To pay the money back, I’d have had to have received the funds, but my name isn’t Francois Fillon.”

She claims to be victim of a politically motivated scam and did not hesitate to attack François Fillon. She told AFP: “To pay the money back, I’d have had to have received the funds, but my name isn’t Francois Fillon”.

According to a European Parliament watchdog organisation, Front National’s leader has illicitly paid party staff between 2011 and 2012. The money should have been used to pay assistants for legislative tasks. As she refuses to repay, the parliament could now respond by withholding as much as half of her salary and allowances, which amount to almost €8,000 (£6,800).

Jean-Marie Le Pen had previously had his EU payments cut because of misused money that was not reimbursed.

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