Lawyers for François and Penelope Fillon announced on Thursday (February 9th) that they had asked the National Public Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) to dismiss an inquiry into suspicions of fictitious employment for the candidate’s wife.
Three days earlier, during his first press conference since the beginning of the case, François Fillon himself had expressed his intention to challenge in law the jurisdiction of the PNF to investigate the facts of “hijacking public funds” to which he is accused.
“We have today asked the national financial prosecutor to relinquish the preliminary investigation in progress ,” said François Fillon’s lawyer, Antonin Levy, during a press briefing in his office.
“Absence of offense”, according to lawyers
The PNF started the investigation into embezzlement and abuse of corporate assets, after the publication of the first article of Le Canard enchaîné, January 25. The news paper revealed that Ms Fillon for years occupied a post as Parliamentary assistant to her husband when he was a deputy.
For the lawyers, “the offense of embezzlement of public funds can not be criticized François Fillon” , because in their eyes this offense is not applicable to a parliamentarian. M e Levy insisted:
“The absence of this offense makes the PNF incompetent to investigate and its investigation becomes illegal. “
They also criticized the public prosecutor’s office for ” seriously undermining the principle of the separation of powers” .
It is up to the PNF to decide what action it intends to take in its investigation. In a preliminary investigation, lawyers have no remedy to challenge the proceedings during investigations, as opposed to a judicial investigation conducted by an investigating judge or judges. However, they could challenge the competence of the PNF in a possible trial.