Marine Le Pen’s ‘fake jobs’ cost EU parliament ‘€5 million’

The European Parliament now believes the fake jobs scandal involving French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's National Front (FN) party has cost the institutions nearly €5 million ($5.5 million), a source in the French probe said on Thursday

Marine Le Pen's 'fake jobs' cost EU parliament '€5 million'
Photo: AFP

The cost of the scandal, which involves the employment of assistants and a bodyguard, has risen to €4,978,122 after “new information” was discovered, the source told AFP.

The previous cost was estimated at €1.9 million.

Earlier this month French prosecutors asked the European parliament to lift the immunity of far-right presidential candidate over the inquiry into alleged fake parliamentary jobs.

The demand was made at the end of last month after she invoked her parliamentary immunity in refusing to attend questioning by investigating magistrates on March 10.

The case is linked to an expenses inquiry in which the European Parliament has accused Le Pen's FN of defrauding it to the tune of some €340,000 ($360,000).

The parliament believes the party used funds allotted for parliamentary assistants to pay Le Pen's personal assistant Catherine Griset and her bodyguard Thierry Legier for party work in France.

French investigators leading the case raided the party's headquarters outside Paris last month in a bid to determine whether the FN used European funds to pay for 20 assistants — presented as parliamentary aides — who were working for the party elsewhere.

Le Pen shrugged off the request to have her immunity lifted, saying it was “normal”.

“It's totally normal procedure, I'm not surprised,” she told Franceinfo radio.

The allegations appear to have had little impact on Le Pen's campaign.

Investigators probing the allegations against the FN raided the party's headquarters outside Paris last month.

Le Pen's chief of staff Catherine Griset was questioned at length by investigators before being charged with concealment.

The parliament, which meets in both Strasbourg and Brussels, says Griset was among the employees paid from funds for work in France.

Charles Hourcade, a former assistant to Boutonnet who once worked as a graphic designer at the FN's headquarters, was also charged over the affair.

Le Pen's bodyguard Thierry Legier was also questioned by investigators but was not charged

 Le Pen has already had her parliamentary immunity lifted over a separate affair dating to 2015 when she shared graphic pictures of Islamic State atrocities on Twitter.

Those pictures saw her placed under investigation for “dissemination of violent images”.


France’s far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case

Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of France's far-right National Front party, refused to submit to police questioning last month as part of an EU funding inquiry, claiming immunity as a European Parliament lawmaker, his adviser said Sunday.

France's far-right patriarch refused questioning in EU fraud case

Le Pen is one of several party MEPs suspected of using European Parliament funds provided for assistants to pay more than 20 France-based party staff.

If convicted, the party could be ordered to repay €7 million ($8.2 million), and the judges pre-emptively seized the subsidies.

An EU tribunal has already determined that Le Pen must reimburse €320,000.

But when police from France's anti-corruption squad tried to question him last month at his office just outside Paris, he claimed MEP immunity and ordered them to leave.

“He was prepared to receive them, but they had such arrogant attitudes which Jean-Marie Le Pen refused to accept,” his adviser Lorrain de Saint Affrique told AFP, confirming a report in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Le Pen, 90, sits as an independent after being thrown out of his party by his daughter Marine Le Pen in 2015 for saying the Nazi gas chambers were a mere “detail” of history.

He has also often made disparaging statements against Muslims and Roma which have earned him a string of hate speech convictions.

His daughter has renamed the party the National Rally in an effort to shed its xenophobic and anti-Semitic image.

The EU funding inquiry has led French judges to withhold €2 million of public subsidies for the party, a move which Marine Le Pen has denounced as a “death sentence”.

Without the funds, she warns the party will be bankrupt by September.