French police searched the headquarters of Marine Le Pen’s party on Monday as part of an official investigation into the “fake” jobs and misuse of €340,000 of European funds.
It is the second time the far-right Front National (FN), in Nanterre, is raided by police within the scope of an investigation coming from the European anti-fraud office (Olaf). The police opened the inquiry on 15 December 2016.
“It obviously is an operation organised by the media with the sole goal being to disturb the smooth running of the presidential campaign and harm Marine Le Pen”, said a Front National’s statement. Florian Philippot, vice-president of the party, reacted on the affair on BFMTV, calling it “a void, an empty space”.
In December 2015, Olaf claimed Le Pen paid her bodyguard Thierry Légier more than €41,500 (£35,350) between October and December 2011, but declared he was her EU parliamentary assistant.
To be considered an EU parliamentary assistant, one has to physically work in one of the three parliament offices in Strasbourg, Luxembourg or Brussels, and live nearby this workplace.
She is also accused of having paid nearly €298,000to her France-based assistant, Catherine Griset,between December 2010 and 2016. This salary is considered unjustified by the European anti-fraud office.
Marine Le Pen refused to repay €340,000
After the Brussels investigators claims and two years of investigation upon request of Martin Schulz in March 2016, French investigators opened a preliminary inquiry for fraud in December 2016.
The European anti-fraud office previously asked Le Pen to repay €340,000 related to Thierry Légier and Catherine Griset’s salaries. The deadline was fixed to 31 January, but the FN leader refused to pay.
The sum of money is currently being deducted from her MEP’s salary, and she might lose around €7,000 a month.