Has the National Front been fiddling its EU expenses?

French police raided the headquarters of the far-right National Front on Wednesday over allegations the party was fiddling European Parliament expenses to pay for assistants, a source close to the investigation said.

Has the National Front been fiddling its EU expenses?
MEPs Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen. Photo: AFP

The raid at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, west of Paris, came a day after police searched the home of founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, as well as the office of his secretary and an accountant linked to the party.

The case relates to 20 assistants to FN members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, who were also listed as party workers.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the FN drew European Parliament funds to pay for the assistants by giving them fake jobs in Strasbourg, while they continued to work for the party elsewhere.

The FN criticised the probe as politically motivated in a statement issued Wednesday, saying the French government was trying to “hinder, spy on, and intimidate the patriotic opposition”.

The case was initially launched by European Parliament anti-fraud authorities in early 2015, before the case was passed to Paris.

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Le Pen’s far-right National Rally left high and dry by €2 million funding cut

France's far-right National Rally said on Sunday that its future was in doubt after judges withheld €2 million in public subsidies over allegations the party illegally took millions in European Parliament funding.

Le Pen's far-right National Rally left high and dry by €2 million funding cut
Le Pen's National Rally was formerly known as the National Front. Photo: AFP

Party leader Marine Le Pen told AFP that without the money her party, formerly known as the National Front, would no longer be able to operate and “will be dead by the end of August”.

She and other party members are accused of using funds earmarked for parliamentary assistants to pay for France-based staff over several years starting in 2009.

Investigating judges ordered the seizure of the funds, nearly half the total 4.5 million euros ($5.3 million) allocated for the party this year, on June 28, a source close the inquiry said.

Such subsidies are common in European countries, which see them as a way of ensuring a level playing field while limiting the risks of political corruption or illegal funding.

But despite the public funds, Le Pen's party has had a string of financial setbacks.

In 2014 the party had to take a nine million euro loan from a Russian bank as it struggled to secure financing in France, and several banks including Societe Generale and HSBC refused to open accounts for the party last year.

The European Parliament is demanding seven million euros in assistant subsidies it believes was fraudulently paid by Le Pen and other National Rally lawmakers, including her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Ten people have been charged in the inquiry so far, including Marine Le Pen.