French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused Friday to attend questioning by investigating magistrates over claims she broke the rules on the use of European Parliament funds. Le Pen's personal assistant Catherine Griset was charged on Wednesday with breach of trust in the probe into allegations that her National Front (FN) party defrauded the European Parliament of about 340,000 euros ($360,000).. Le Pen, who sits in the European Parliament, has furiously denied accusations she broke the rules by using parliamentary funds to pay Griset as well as bodyguard Thierry Legier for jobs in France rather than at the European Parliament.
Le Pen, who has vowed to call a referendum on France's membership of the European Union if elected, has described the investigation as a vendetta.
She is not the only presidential candidate facing accusations over 'fake jobs'. Her conservative rival Francois Fillon is fighting claims he paid his wife more than 700,000 euros for parliamentary work that she might not have carried out.
PARIS—A top aide of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has been handed preliminary charges in an investigation into money spent on her party’s European Parliament assistants.
Paris prosecutor’s office said that aide Catherine Griset was detained for questioning Wednesday, and subsequently charged with breach of trust.
Le Pen’s bodyguard Thierry Legier, who was also questioned, was released without charge.
Both were employed as European Parliament assistants.
Asked about the questioning, Le Pen dismissed the probe Wednesday as “political manoeuvring” ahead of France’s two-round April-May presidential election.
Prompted by a European Commission investigation into the case, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a judicial inquiry on potential charges including fraud, abuse of trust and organized criminal activity. Investigators are also looking at other National Front members’ use of parliamentary aides.
Investigators suspect that members of Le Pen’s National Front used legislative aides for the party’s political activity while they were on the European Parliament’s payroll. The party denies wrongdoing.