French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was placed under a formal investigation on Tuesday in connection with allegations of misappropriating public funds. Fillon had offered to step down from the presidential race if a formal probe into the matter were launched.
The former prime minister allegedly paid his wife Penelope half a million euros to “do nothing” in a fictitious job role. Apart from his wife Penelope, Fillon is also being investigated for paying his two children – Marie and Charles – when he was a senator, reported BBC. Though Fillon has said that his children were paid as lawyers, neither was a qualified lawyer at the time.
According to reports, the payments were made between 1998 and 2013. While the couple has not denied the payments, Fillon had said that Penelope worked for the salary in her capacity as a parliamentary aide. Allegations against the presidential candidate’s wife also include claims that she was unfairly paid €100,000 by a magazine, owned by a family friend, for writing two articles.
Though Fillon was initially supposed to meet the investigators on Wednesday, it has been brought forward by 24 hours to avoid attention from the media, according to Reuters. According to French law, if a person is put under formal investigation, it means there is “serious or consistent evidence” against him.
In November 2016, Fillion had won the Republicans party’s nomination for the 2017 presidential elections in the country. The centre-right candidate, who had promised to cut at least 500,000 public sector jobs if voted to power, had also called on the European Union to lift its sanctions on Russia.
The April-May 2017 elections will be seen as a test of mainstream political candidates in the West following Donald Trump’s victory in the United States presidential elections.