France’s Le Pen slams report over alleged embezzlement

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Rally party, attends a news conference in Tallinn, Estonia May 14, 2019. — Reuters pic
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Rally party, attends a news conference in Tallinn, Estonia May 14, 2019. — Reuters pic

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PARIS, May 17 — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen lashed out Sunday over a press report detailing allegations that her party misused EU funds to pay its employees.

“The JDD... comes out again with the same perennial story of parliamentary aides, as with every election,” Le Pen said on Twitter.

France is to hold regional elections on June 20 and 27.

Le Pen, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and top members of the National Rally (RN) party have been charged with misuse of public funds in connection with salaries paid to EU parliamentary aides.

The Journal du Dimanche (JDD) cited a 98-page report by France’s anti-corruption office dated February 15 that summarises findings of an investigation opened in 2015.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti denied RN accusations that the report was deliberately leaked to the newspaper.

But Europe minister Clement Beaune said it showed “for the RN in the European Parliament, it was pretty much grab the cash and get out of there”.

Other politicians from across the party spectrum also denounced the RN.

The JDD report said the party is suspected of having put in place an “embezzlement system... in a concerted and deliberate manner”.

The employees were working for the party while being paid out of a monthly €21,000 (RM105,300) allowance from the European Parliament, the report said.

The parliament in 2018 estimated the total outlay at €6.8 million.

Sources close to the investigation told AFP that it could not be completed in 2020 as hoped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The party denies any wrongdoing and has used multiple delaying tactics against the probe.

One defence lawyer acknowledged that the defence was trying to “delay holding any trial until after the presidential election” next April, expected to once again pit Le Pen against incumbent Emmanuel Macron in the second round. — AFP

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