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French ex-Prime Minister Fillon on trial for fraud

Paris (March 3, 2020) – French ex-Prime Minister François Fillon is accused of having paid his wife, and other family members high salaries for years – without actually working. Now he is on trial for fraud. He has been charged with misuse of public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds and the misappropriation of company assets. Fillon is facing up to ten years in prison and a one million euro fine. His wife Penelope has been charged as an accomplice.

On January 25, 2017, the French weekly ‘Le Canard Enchaîné’ (in English: the chained duck) revealed that presidential candidate François Fillon had paid his wife Penelope around 500,000 euros (about $746,300) in fake salaries between 1998 and 2013. The non-politician acted as a parliamentary assistant on the payslip, although she later told a television broadcaster that she ‘never performed’ this function.

Fillon had not the slightest doubt’ that what he was doing was ‘completely legal’

At first, Fillon denied the accusations of the satirical magazine. A week later, however, Le Canard added new details. His wife Penelope allegedly had also received approximately 100,000 euros (about $149,300) for an alleged fake job as a consultant for a literary magazine of a billionaire friend of Fillon’s between 2012 and 2013. The magazine owner and billionaire pleaded guilty in 2018 and was given a suspended eight-month prison sentence and was fined 375,000 euros.

After a preliminary investigation, a formal procedure for pseudo jobs (also for the daughter Marie), embezzlement and serious fraud was launched. Altogether, the fraudulent work brought the family more than 1 million euros (about $1.08 million). Hence, the Fillon candidacy was done. In the first ballot in April 2017, he lost to Macron (24 percent) and Le Pen (21.3 percent). His relatively good 20 percent vote only showed that the atmosphere in the country was actually very favorable for a conservative candidate. He defended himself that he had ‘not the slightest doubt’ that what he was doing was ‘completely legal’.

The fraud trial and other consequences

The trial began on February 24, 2020, and is scheduled to last until March 11. He has been charged with misuse of public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds and the misappropriation of company assets. Fillon is facing up to ten years in prison and a one million euro fine. His wife Penelope has been charged as an accomplice.

In 2017, it was a political bomb because Fillon clearly led the polls for the upcoming presidential election in France. The former conservative Prime Minister benefited from the frustration of many voters over the colorless incumbent, the socialist François Hollande. He promised ‘blood and tears’. The scandal made headlines in the French media just three months before the election and crushed his candidacy.

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As a consequence, Macron’s government was prompted to pass a law in order to clean up ethics in politics, including a ban for lawmakers and government members to hire close family members.