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Prosecutors open criminal case into Fillon’s ‘fake jobs’ scandal

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Prosecutors announced Friday that a criminal probe had been opened into claims that presidential candidate François Fillon paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros to serve as his parliamentary assistant, a job she may never have performed. French media investigations have found no evidence that Penelope Fillon did any government work. Fillon herself has also denied ever having worked as an aide to her husband. “I have never been actually his assistant or anything like that,” she told the Telegraph in 2007.

The prosecutor’s decision to advance the case deals a serious blow to Fillon, whose former status as the favourite to win the April-May presidential elections has plummeted because of the scandal now known as “Penelopegate” after his British wife. The conservative candidate has denied the allegations. Rather inauspiciously, the prosecutor’s statement was issued late on Friday just as Fillon was about to take the stage at a Les Républicains campaign rally near Paris. The latest development means that what began as a preliminary police probe into the allegations has now become an official inquiry. A magistrate has broad powers to investigate, including tapping phones and placing suspects under house arrest.

A judge will later decide whether to drop the case, place suspects under formal investigation or send the case to trial. It remains unclear if the probe could be concluded before the first round of presidential elections are held on April 23, with a second round to follow on May 7. Any criminal probe would be suspended if Fillon wins the presidency, however, as French heads of state are immune from prosecution.

– AFP

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