Fillon gets preliminary charges in family jobs investigation

French Republicans’ presidential candidate further damaged as case enters new phase

François Fillon: the conservative candidate is accused of misusing public funds and improper declaration of assets, among other charges. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

François Fillon: the conservative candidate is accused of misusing public funds and improper declaration of assets, among other charges. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

 

French presidential candidate François Fillon has been given preliminary charges in an investigation of taxpayer-funded jobs his British wife and children were given but allegedly never performed.

The charges further damage the former prime minister’s chances of winning the two-round April 23rd-May 7th presidential election in which he was once viewed as the leading contender.

Investigating judges filed the charges on Tuesday, Céline Clement-Petremann of the national financial prosecutor’s office said.

It was a surprise move – Mr Fillon had said the judges summoned him for on Wednesday, but they apparently moved up the decision.

Mr Fillon is accused of misusing public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds, complicity in misusing public funds and improper declaration of assets, among other charges, the prosecutor’s office said.

Mr Fillon has denied wrongdoing and vowed to continue his campaign.

While it is legal in France for politicians to hire family members for legitimate jobs, the case against Mr Fillon hinges on whether parliamentary positions he gave to his wife, Penelope, from Abergavenny in Wales, and two of their five children were real or fictitious.

Mr Fillon’s family members insist they did the work for which they were generously paid.

Legally, Mr Fillon’s case is about to enter a new phase.

Politically, the conservative candidate intends to keep campaigning.

Mr Fillon initially said he would quit the presidential race if he were charged.

However, he later decided to maintain his candidacy, explaining he was the legitimate winner of the conservative primary and that his Republicans party had no plan B to replace him as the nominee.

The decision caused a deep rift within the party, prompting many to abandon his campaign.

“There is only one thing that exists in a democracy: it’s the people’s will. The French will choose,” Mr Fillon said on Monday at a news conference.

Waves of revelations

Once a front-runner of the presidential campaign, Mr Fillon has seen his popularity drop following successive waves of revelations in French newspaper reports since January.

The allegations over the allegedly illusory jobs have been particularly damaging to his campaign because Mr Fillon used to tout his reputation for probity.

“Those who don’t respect the laws of the republic should not be allowed to run. There’s no point in talking about authority when one’s not beyond reproach,” he said while running for the conservative nomination.

Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has overtaken Mr Fillon in pre-election polls, increasingly appearing as the new front-runner.

Another top contender has also caught the attention of judicial investigators.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and some members of her National Front party are targeted in several ongoing investigations.

Last week, Ms Le Pen refused to appear before judges in a case concerning her European parliamentary aides.

Polls show Ms Le Pen is likely to reach the second round of the election.

AP