Presidential hopeful Francois Fillon under formal investigation over 'fake job' scandal

Tracy FergusonMar 19, 2017

The prosecutor's office on Tuesday placed French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon under formal investigation over allegations that he diverted public funds.

The embattled French presidential candidate is accused of high level misconduct crimes concerning nearly one million euros, most of which was paid to his wife from parliamentary funds.

With less than six weeks to go Fillon has been unable to draw a line under allegations that he paid his wife with public money for no work. Mr Fillon's lawyer told the newspaper that Charles, the candidate's son, was paying back pocket and living costs.

The judges' decision confirms the worst-case scenario for Fillon, who's already promised to stay in the race whatever happens and faced down a rebellion of party officials seeking his ouster.

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The charges stem from an investigation his wife and children were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for work they didn't actually perform.

A "formal investigation" means French law enforcement have found consistent evidence that Fillon was probably involved in a crime.

For a candidate who had promised fiscal responsibility, the elimination of unnecessary public spending and the slashing of as many as 500,000 public-sector jobs, these accusations have proved devastating.

Two days ago, the Journal du Dimanche newspaper raised questions about expensive suits -worth more than 48,000 euros ($52,000) over the past five years- he received as a gift by an unidentified benefactor.

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Over the weekend, Mr Fillon's party apologised for tweeting a caricature of Mr Macron that Mr Fillon himself admitted was anti-Semitic.

Business France, a French public agency, is suspected of choosing French communications group Havas for organizing the event without seeking a bid.

Either way the probe is unlikely to be resolved before the French presidential election, the first round of which is on April 23rd.

As the Socialists under Francois Hollande have plummeted in popularity, it is increasingly likely Fillon will be facing far-right Front Nationale leader Marine LePen in the final race to the Elysee Palace.

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Polls suggest 39-year-old Macron would beat Le Pen in the decisive second round on May 7 - but after Donald Trump's victory in the United States and Britain's vote to leave the European Union, analysts caution against bold predictions.

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