- Title: French prosecutors open probe into report of Fillon's wife's fake jobs
- Date: 26th January 2017
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (FILE - MAY 16, 2012) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF THEN OUTGOING PRIME MINISTER, FRANCOIS, FILLON AND HIS WIFE, PENELOPE FILLON, ON DOORSTEPS OF PRIME MINISTER'S RESIDENCE FRANCOIS AND PENELOPE FILLON SHAKING HANDS WITH THEN INCOMING PRIME MINISTER, JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, AND HIS WIFE, BRIGITTE AYRAULT FILLON COUPLE LEAVING PREMISES
- Embargoed: 9th February 2017 10:50
- Keywords: Fillon Francois Penelope presidential election fictitious France
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA00460PWZEV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Frontrunner Francois Fillon faced a crisis in his campaign for the French presidency on Wednesday (January 26) when prosecutors opened an inquiry for misuse of public funds after a media report that his wife drew a salary as his assistant but never actually worked.
Fillon, a right-wing former prime minister, said he was outraged at the report by the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine which he said showed "contempt and misogyny".
Fillon is running for The Republicans party in the presidential election on April 23 and May 7. While he faces a strong challenge from far-right leader Marine Le Pen, second in the polls, and from independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, Fillon has generally been seen to be on a smooth ride to the Elysee.
That lead could be affected by how he handles a crisis that risks denting his image as a devout Catholic and family man with a relatively scandal-free record in office.
Hours after Wednesday's report, financial prosecutors in Paris said they were opening an inquiry into misuse of public funds relating to the matter.
"Francois Fillon's lawyer will this very morning contact the financial prosecutor as soon as his offices open. He will then, today, go there with a certain number of documents, because this is is very serious, let me explain, some have talked about stink bombs, Francois Fillon has been in politics for 30 years and hasn't faced any scandals, and as a coincidence only three months from the presidential election, only a few days before his founding speech this Sunday, this affair falls on his lap," Fillon's close ally and presidential campaign coordinator Bruno Retailleau told Europe 1 radio.
The opening of a preliminary investigation is a first step in the judicial process and does not mean that either Fillon or his wife will eventually be charged or even placed under formal investigation.
Fillon said in a statement that he wanted to meet investigators as soon as possible to establish the truth and defend his honour.
It is common practice for French parliamentarians to employ wives, children and even mistresses in their office.
Retailleau told Europe 1 radio Penelope Fillon had an active role in the shadow of her husband.
"This role involved being both an adviser as well as carrying out small tasks - she would meet many people from the Sarthe region, we have many accounts of that, of people who would go directly to her because she's a woman who is approachable - giving him (Fillon) a helping hand," Retailleau said.
But the allegation that Fillon's British-born wife, Penelope, was paid for fake jobs - a charge to which he did not reply directly on Wednesday - could undermine his pledge to pursue an honest and transparent campaign and hurt his ratings as the race for the presidency gathers pace.
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