Lawyers For France's Fillon: Investigation Into Wife's Pay Is Illegal

Carla Harmon
February 11, 2017

- French investigators have interviewed two children of conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon as part of an embezzlement probe into paid - but allegedly fake - political jobs they had working for their father.

"The financial prosecutor has no jurisdiction and its inquiry is therefore illegal", the lawyer Antonin Levy told a news conference, adding: "This investigation violates the most basic principles of the French constitution".

Fillon has apologised to the French people over the way hundreds of thousands of euros in taxpayers' money were paid to his wife, but has denied that the work was fake and has said he did nothing illegal.

Two weeks ago, the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine broke the so called "Penelope gate" after revealing that his British-born wife Penelope Fillon had been paid 900,000 euros (958,000 US dollars) for her job as a parliamentary assistant to her husband and at a culture magazine. National Front leader Marine Le Pen is expected to lead with 26 percent of votes against 21 percent for the independent presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

He also criticised constant leaks about the investigation to the media which he said were damaging to his client and likely to have an impact on the two-stage presidential election in April and May.

Meanwhile, Mr Levy and Pierre Cornut-Gentille, Mrs Fillon's lawyer, have said prosecutors should drop the case.

French politicians are allowed to hire family members as aides as long as they actually do the jobs for which they are paid.

Employing relatives is not prohibited under conflict-of-interest laws in France.

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