- Two close Le Pen aides in custody
- Inquiry into alleged misuse of EU funds
- Le Pen denies wrongdoing
- She says the inquiry is politically motivated
French police have detained far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s bodyguard and chief of staff in custody.
Le Pen’s lawyer says they are being questioned over alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.
The case has landed the Front National leader in the spotlight alongside another leading candidate, Francois Fillon.
The centre-right candidate is being investigated over public funds paid to his wife and two of his children.
Police searched the FN party headquarters in western Paris on Monday.
AFP news agency (@AFP) February 22, 2017
Who has been questioned?
The two held for questioning are Le Pen’s bodyguard, Thierry Legier, and her chief of staff, Catherine Griset.
They are key figures in an investigation opened following demands by the European Parliament that Le Pen repay money she is accused of wrongly paying the two.
Has there been any comment from Le Pen?
The Front National leader has denounced the arrests.
Conscious of her image and poll position, Le Pen says she is convinced voters will not fall for what her lawyer has called a “manipulation designed to destabilise her.”
“The French can tell the difference between genuine scandals and political dirty-tricks,” Le Pen told reporters in Meaux. She has denied any wrongdoing.
One of her lawyers also denounced what he says is the “political instrumentalisation” of the legal system.
“The searches on Monday took place while Marine Le Pen was in Lebanon, a fact of which the authorities were well aware,” said Marcel Ceccaldi.
“It was an attempt to get around her parliamentary immunity and, is in fact, an attack on her right to the free exercise of power as head of a political organisation.”
Maître Marcel Ceccaldi, l’avocat de Marine Le Pen a un sacré pédigrée et pas très anti et hors-système… https://t.co/iBnWImtafZ— Bertrand Soulier (@BertrandSoulier) February 22, 2017
Why is this happening now?
The inquiry has stepped up a gear since last week.
Parts of an EU fraud inquiry report were leaked to the French media and then passed on to the French authorities.
An inquiry had been launched on the 15th of December into a range of charges connected to the FN’s employment of parliamentary assistants.