Former French Prime Minister François Fillon sentenced to five years

Elias Hubbard
June 30, 2020

Former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope were found guilty of embezzling more than 1 million euros (S$1.6 million) for a fake job she held as a parliamentary aide lasting about a decade.

In January 2017 when he was campaigning in the presidential election, French press reported that Penelope, as Fillon's assistant, was paid up to 10,000 euros (10,800 US dollars) a month for little to no work.

Fillon was found guilty of embezzlement and concealment of a crime by a French court which handed him down a five-year prison sentence. His wife, who had been paid some €500,000 ($563,860) between 1992 and 2002 from the money made available to her husband by the French government, also received a suspended three-year sentence and was ordered to pay €375,000 as well.

In addition, the couple was requested to reimburse the National Assembly more than 1 million euros that correspond to the salaries and payroll charges that were paid.

The Paris court considered that Fillon "elaborated and established an organization enabling to misappropriate money for his personal use".

Fillon, 65 and his wife Penelope, who is originally from Wales, had denied any wrongdoing.

He was forced to abandon his presidential campaign, bringing the centre-right Les Républicains party down with him, and allowing the election of the centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Defence lawyers struggled at the trial this year to provide documented proof that she actually did any work - and the head of the magazine, Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, had already pleaded guilty to the fake job charges.

The politician's lawyers meanwhile denounced the court decision as "unfair" and exceedingly "harsh", adding that the couple will appeal it and "there will be a new trial".

The trial started on February 26 but was paused as of March 11 due to the coronavirus outbreak in France.

Penelope Fillon told the court she spent a lot of time sorting her husband's mail, attending public events near their rural manor and gathering information for his speeches.

Fillon insisted his wife had been properly and gainfully employed, opening his letters and helping with vital parliamentary work. He was found guilty and sentenced to a three-year suspended prison sentence.

He was additionally accused of getting the millionaire owner of a literary magazine to pay his wife €135,000 for "consulting work".

Fillon, once the youngest lawmaker at the National Assembly at the age of 27, served as prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012.

He left French politics in 2017 and now works for an asset management company.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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