French Investigators Seek Parliamentary Files for Fillon ProbeBy
French prosecutors took their investigation of presidential candidate Francois Fillon to the National Assembly Tuesday, seeking evidence related to the lawmaker’s employment of his wife as a parliamentary assistant, Agence France-Presse reported, citing Republican lawmaker Christian Jacob.
Fillon’s bid for the presidency was thrown off course last week when prosecutors opened a preliminary probe of whether his wife actually did work as a parliamentary aide -- a job for which she collected about 500,000 ($538,000) in salary over the course of about a decade, according to a report in Le Canard Enchaine newspaper. Officials at the National Assembly declined to comment on the investigators’ presence at the legislature and the prosecutor’s office wasn’t immediately reachable.
With less than three months to go before the first round of voting in France’s 2017 election, Fillon has promised to withdraw from the race if the preliminary inquiry becomes a formal one -- something that has never happened to a major French candidate this late in a presidential contest.
A Kantar Sofres poll released Monday in Le Figaro suggests that the scandal has cost Fillon support. About 22 percent of voters now back the Republican for the first round of voting, leaving him just one point ahead of independent Emmanuel Macron and three points behind the National Front’s Marine Le Pen. Before the inquiry, Fillon was considered the favorite to be France’s next president.
Voting is scheduled for April 23 and the two leading candidates from that battle face each other in a run off on May 7.
The document search comes the day after Fillon and his wife, Penelope, were separately questioned for about five hours by the police as part of the probe. The presidential candidate was “happy to defend his honor,” Antonin Levy, Fillon’s lawyer, said on BFM television. A parliamentary job’s assistant is often “less tangible” than other types of work, Levy added.
Investigators are also looking into Penelope Fillon’s job at the Revue des Deux Mondes, a monthly bulletin. According to Le Canard Enchaine she may not have done much work there either, despite collecting 100,000 euros for services in 2012 and 2013.
Investigators have searched the Revue des Deux Mondes’ offices, interviewed the magazine’s former director and its owner, billionaire Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere.