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Marine Le Pen's aide charged in 'fake jobs' scandal

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Marine Le Pen's aide charged in 'fake jobs' scandal
Photo: AFP
08:21 CET+01:00
Marine Le Pen suffered a blow on Wednesday as one of her aides was charged in a fake jobs scandal.
Le Pen's personal assistant Catherine Griset was charged with breach of trust in a probe into allegations the candidate's National Front (FN) party defrauded the European Parliament of about €340,000 ($360,000).
   
The legislature accuses Le Pen, an MEP, of using parliamentary funds to pay Griset as well as bodyguard Thierry Legier while they worked for her party in France rather than at the parliament. Le Pen has furiously denied the claims.
   
Justice should not be used to interfere in the May 23rd presidential election as "this is an important democratic moment" and "fundamental" for France, she said on Wednesday.
  
"It is surprising that two months before the presidential election, there is this great judicial activity," she told the TF1 channel.
   
She questioned the "impartiality and independence" of "the administration of justice."
   
The scandal comes as Fillon battles his own investigation into claims his British-born wife Penelope was paid around 700,000 euros ($739,000) over 15 years as a parliamentary assistant, despite little evidence that she did any work.
   
But while Fillon's ratings took a dive after "Penelopegate", opinion polls currently show Le Pen winning the first round of the election in April 23rd, although she is forecast to lose in the runoff on May 7th.
 
She has been working hard to soften her image and that of the party founded by her father, Jean-Marie, a former paratrooper famous for his anti-Semitic and xenophobic remarks.
   
The resurgence of the far-right in France, along with a series of Islamist terror attacks, saw President Francois Hollande Wednesday declare that the country "will never succumb to extremism".
   
Hollande, who made the remarks at an event hosted by the CRIF umbrella grouping of Jewish organisations, was responding to CRIF president Francis Kalifat, who called for "the far-right and the far-left to be blocked at the next elections".
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