July 1 (UPI) — Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, has been charged in connection to the party’s alleged misuse of funds from the European Parliament.
The National Front faces accusations that it had staff members, who did political work unrelated to the European Union, falsely sign up as aides on the European Parliament’s payroll.
Le Pen, a former member of the European Parliament, was charged with breach of trust for allegedly placing her chief of staff and her body guard on the EU payroll between 2009 and 2016. She was also charged for being complicit in the whole party’s breach of trust, as the party leader.
Her lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut confirmed the charges, stating the former presidential candidate had been summoned by investigating magistrates in Paris and was placed under investigation.
Beginning in February, the European Parliament said it would dock Le Pen’s pay until she paid back the misused funds.
Le Pen has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and claimed the allegations are political “persecution” against her.
A total of 16 other National Front lawmakers, including Le Pen’s estranged father Jean-Marie Le Pen, are being investigated for paying salaries to approximately 40 parliamentary assistants.
“There is nothing illegal,” Florian Philippot, the party’s vice president, said. “One can perfectly be a parliamentary aide and a party activist at the same time.”
French law states that being under formal investigation indicates “serious or consistent evidence” of connection with a crime and is a step towards a trial.
Investigations can be dropped before a case reaches a trial, but Le Pen could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $428,000.
Le Pen’s lawyer said there was “no fictitious work” and added he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges and end the investigation on Monday.