The former French prime Minister and his British wife are to go on trial today accused of embezzling a million euros from the public purse.
Francois Fillon is accused of paying his wife Penelope some £840,000 as his parliamentary assistant for doing little or no work in a scandal which wrecked his 2017 run for the presidency.
A consummate political insider who was PM under Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration, Fillon, 65, was the comfortable frontrunner in the election race when the allegations surfaced. He denied wrongdoing, resisted party pressure to pull his candidacy, and was eliminated in the first round of the vote.
Fillon said in an interview last month that his Welsh wife, 64, had been his most important employee and that her work for him would be proven at trial.
Then French right wing candidate for the 2017 presidential election Francois Fillon and his Welsh wife Penelope attend a campaign rally in Paris. Fillon is accused of paying his wife Penelope some £840,000 as his parliamentary assistant for doing little or no work in a scandal which wrecked his 2017 run and paved the way for Macron’s ascendancy
‘She managed my constituency diary and my mail, and edited the speeches I was making,’ he told public broadcaster France 2.
French presidential election candidate for the right-wing Les Republicains party Francois Fillon holds Penelope’s shoulder on stage during a rally at the place du Trocadero, in Paris in March 2017
Investigators estimate Penelope Fillon received 1 million euros (£840,000) from her husband’s office over a three decade period from the early 1980s to 2013.
When the scandal broke, Fillon denounced what he called a campaign of dirty tricks and denied having done anything illegal, though he admitted an error of judgement. He told France 2 he may have made mistakes.
‘I surely committed errors but there is something that I will not accept, and that is that people think that I am dishonest or that I sought to con the French people,’ he said.
Fillon is accused of embezzling public funds, a charge which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a 1 million euro fine. His wife is charged with complicity to embezzlement and concealment of public money.
A lawyer for the couple was not available for comment.
Facing the judges beside the Fillons will be Marc Joulaud, who is accused of continuing to channel funds to Penelope Fillon after he took the conservative politician’s parliamentary seat while he was in government. He also denies the changes.
Fillon and his wife Penelope leave after paying their respects at the tomb of French former defence minister and Fillon’s mentor in politics, Joel Le Theule at the cemetery in Sable-sur-Sarthe, northwestern France in December last year
French presidential election candidate for the right-wing Les Republicains (LR) party Francois Fillon (C) sits between president of the French Senate Gerard Larcher (L) and Marseille’s mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin during a campaign rally in Marseille in April 2017
The French parliament, which is a claimant in the case, this week said it was seeking more than 1 million euros in damages from Francois Fillon and Joulaud.
Fillons’ defence team will ask the judges on Monday that the trial be postponed by two days in support of a strike by lawyers against Macron’s pension reform, France’s AFP news agency reported.
Fillon now works for investment management firm Tikehau Capital.