Deadline passes as Marine Le Pen refuses to repay EU funds

A European Parliament deadline for France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen to return more than €300,000 (£257,000; $321,000) it says she has misspent, has passed.

The presidential candidate had until midnight to repay the money, but said she had no intention of doing so.

The parliament says she wrongly used the funds to pay an aide at the National Front’s headquarters in Paris.

She says she is the victim of a politically motivated vendetta.

If she does not repay the money, the parliament could now respond by withholding as much as half of her salary and allowances, which her opponents say total almost €11,000 a month.

 

“In order to reimburse, I’d have had to have received the funds, but my name isn’t François Fillon,” Le Pen told Agence France-Presse, referring to a growing scandal surrounding conservative presidential nominee Fillon and his wife Penelope, who is suspected of having been paid nearly €1,000,000 for French parliamentary assistance work and employment at a magazine that she didn’t perform.

“Moreover, I formally contest this unilateral and illegal decision,” Le Pen told AFP.

A first letter sent to Le Pen demanded she repay the sum of €298,497.87 by January 31, for salaries paid to Catherine Griset, who worked as a parliamentary assistant from December 2010 to February 2016.

In a report last year, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) made light of the fact that while Griset’s contract stipulates her workplace as the EU Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels, she was “unable to prove that she continually resided in Belgium” nor that she was “regularly present at her place of work”.

OLAF also pointed out that Griset held a “recognised position” at the National Front’s headquarters in the suburbs of Paris during her time as a parliamentary assistant.

A second letter sent to Le Pen sought to recover an additional €41,554 by February 28, for wages paid to her bodyguard Thierry Légier.

Her failure to repay the European body means Le Pen faces a pay cut of some €7,000 a month, starting midnight Tuesday, as punishment from the EU parliament.

Source: Marine Le Pen: Deadline passes for National Front leader to repay EU funds – BBC News