7 facts for understanding ‘Penelopegate’ scandal

It has now been 3 weeks since the ‘Penelopegate’ scandal broke. The scandal is named after French presidential candidate François Fillon’s wife, Penelope.

However, more members of Fillon’s family have been involved. In France, the matter’s name is switching from ‘Penelopegate’ to ‘Fillon scandal’.

If you have missed a few points during these past weeks, The French Report helps you to get back on track on the latest French scandal.

“Le Canard Enchaîné” breaks the story

It all started on Monday 24 January. Le Canard Enchaîné breaks the story online: Penelope Fillon has been paid €500,000 (around £427,300) as her husband and his deputy Marc Joulaud’s parliamentary assistant from 1998 to 2007, the newspaper says.

It is also believed that she has received €5,000 (£4,280) monthly from the journal La Revue des Mondes, from May 2012 to December 2013.

The problem is, these are suspected to be fake jobs. Police start to investigate allegations that Fillon’s Welsh-born wife has been paid for work she did not do.

François Fillon denies the allegations

The following day, on TF1, François Fillon assures he wife has been working as a parliamentary assistant. The job was “real” and “legal”, he says.

He also announces he has paid his children, Marie and Charles, for one-off missions as parliamentary attachés between 2005 and 2007, when he was a senator. But at that time, his two children had not graduated yet (they did so respectively in 2007 and 2010).

He also announces that he will withdraw from the campaign if he is placed under formal investigation.

The numbers get bigger

Police investigate house of Parliament on February 28 and hear François Fillon, his wife and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, owner of La Revue des Deux Mondes and friend of the Presidential candidate, two days later.

On 1 February, Le Canard Enchaîné affirms Fillon’s wife has been paid more than €900,000 (£770,000): €831,440 as a parliamentary assistant – for the following periods 1988 to 1990, 1998 to 2002, 2002 to 2007 and 2012 to 2013 – and €100,000 from La Revue des Mondes. Whereas his children are said to have received €84,000.

Fillon accuses “shadowy” forces of seeking to crush him. But he also admits: “I understand that the accusations are troubling to certain among you because they are pounding … and because of the sums involved.”

On February 2, the investigative TV show “Envoyé spécial” shares 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.

La Revue des Mondes’s inconsistencies

There is inconsistencies in La Revue des Mondes allegations as well as in François Fillon’s strategy for defending himself and his family.

There are two different versions of the story for La Revue des Monde’s scandal. Penelope Fillon affirmed to the police that “(she) was an arts counsellor for the journal. But after a couple of times the relationship with the director, Mr. Crépu, became very bad, and (she) decided to leave.” 

On the other hand, Mr. Crépu told Le Monde: “This is a complete and shameful lie. I have never seen Pénélope Fillon in my whole life”.

François Fillon’s strategy

François Fillon holds on and affirms there is no plan B. He calls the voter to respect the choice of the primaries. On 14 February, he says in front of the right-wing MPs: “Honestly, he would probably be easier for my family and I to withdraw from the competition. This decision (to stay), is final, and I won’t get back to it.”

On 15 of February, François Fillon have a media-friendly lunch with Nicolas Sarkozy. Did he asked some advice to face allegations? The former President is currently involved in Khadafi, Tapie and Karachi scandals, amongst others.

Fillon sinks in the polls

The latest polls suggest that support for Fillon has plummeted after the allegations. Ifop and BVA both suggest Fillon could be knocked out of the first-round presidential vote on 23 April, with between 18.5% and 20% of support.

Front National leader’s Marine Le Pen reaches 25%. Results and percentage of support varies largely amongst polls, but all give Marine Le Pen first and Emmanuel Macron second. In December, Fillon was the favourite candidate.

The latest news: prosecutors say case “can not be dropped at this stage”

On Thursday 16 February, prosecutors announced that, regarding all the elements collected, it was not possible to drop the case and that investigations will continue. The financial prosecution now faces two options: open a legal information or send people involved in the affair to the criminal court.

Mr Fillon declared that there was “nothing new” in this declaration and that he would only rely on the “judgement of the popular vote”.

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