Fillon payment scandal: Investigation ‘to include two of his children’

 

Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential candidate of the French centre-right, leaves home in Paris, France, on 1 FebruaryImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionSome members of Mr Fillon’s Republican party have called for him to quit, but others have defended him

Prosecutors in France have widened their investigation into the financial affairs of the centre-right presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, to include payments made to two of his children.

He has become mired in a scandal surrounding claims that his Welsh-born wife, Penelope, was paid large sums over a number of years for “fake jobs”.

Mr Fillon has denied any wrongdoing.

He has faced mounting pressure to quit the presidential race.

Putting more pressure on Mr Fillion, a 62-year-old ex-prime minister, France Televisions said it would screen extracts from an interview with his wife in 2007 in which she told British media that she had never worked as his assistant.


What is it all about?

Penelope Fillon has been accused by satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine of being paid hundreds of thousands of euros for work she may not have done.

The couple have said she was legitimately employed as his parliamentary aide, and her lawyer, Pierre Cornut-Gentille, said she handed over evidence of the work she did.

Excerpts of the interview to be aired on Thursday evening have not yet been made public. But Mr Fillon’s lawyer, Antonin Levy, told L’Express newspaper that the remarks had been “taken out of context.”

Penelope Fillon, wife of former French Prime Minister and Les Republicains political party candidate for the 2017 presidential election Francois FillonImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe scandal has centred on Mr Fillon’s wife, Penelope

Now, investigators are also expected to look into payments of more than €80,000 (£69,000; $86,000) made to Marie and Charles Fillon, when their father was a senator between 2005 and 2007.

Mr Fillon said his children were paid as lawyers, for specific tasks. But neither was a qualified lawyer at the time. According to Le Canard Enchaine, they drew pay cheques not for assignments, but for two full-time jobs.


What is the impact on the race?

Mr Fillon said he would fight the accusations “to the end”.

Republican MP Philippe Gosselin said an open letter was being drawn up by some members calling for him to be replaced by his 71-year-old rival Alain Juppe if he decides to stand aside.

Mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppe looks on during a literary meeting on 1 FebruaryImage copyrightAFP
Image captionMayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppe, says he does not want to be seen as “Plan B”

Republican lawmakers who support Mr Fillon published their own letter in the Le Figaro newspaper, denouncing what they called an “attempt to kill” his candidacy. The 17 names included stalwarts such as former finance minister Francois Baroin.

Until recently, Mr Fillon was the favourite to win the presidency in elections in April and May. He has now slipped behind far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron, being defeated in the first round, a poll suggested on Wednesday.

The poll showed Mr Macron easily defeating Ms Le Pen in the runoff.


What will happen to the Republicans?

Support to Mr Fillon support is eroding among his own party.

Mr Juppe,who lost to Mr Fillon in the Republican primary race, says he is not a “Plan B”, even though his supporters may have other ideas.

According to the lawyer in charge of the centre-right primary, Anne Levade, there is no provision for anyone pulling out. But if it did happen the interested parties would have to make a decision on how to proceed.

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