France's Fillon fights back against scandal

08 February, 2017, 00:16 | Author: Ora Austin
  • GETTYThe euro has struggled amid growing political risks

French rightwing presidential candidate Francois Fillon met lawmakers from his party Tuesday before what he called a campaign "relaunch", after apologising for hiring his wife as a parliamentary aide.

The weekly Le Canard Enchaine alleged that Fillon had approved hundreds of thousands of euros to be paid to his British-born wife Penelope for fraudulent work as a parliamentary assistant while two of his grown-up children had received salaries for work for which they were not qualified.

The conservative candidate has told a hastily convened news conference he deeply regrets his mistake and apologises to the French people.

If he were forced to quit as the centre-right's nominee, it would be an unprecedented move in six decades of French politics.

And Penelope Fillon's past comments have left some doubt as to how rigorous her job with Fillon was.

"Like many MPs, I acted according to practices that were legal but which it is clear our compatriots now reject", Fillon said Monday.

PARIS French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon on Monday vowed to fight on for the presidency despite a damaging scandal involving taxpayer-funded payments to his wife for work that a newspaper alleges she did not do.

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The magazine claimed that Penelope Fillon was paid for last 15 years and there wasn't any evidence that she performed the jobs for which she was paid.

Far-right leader of National Front Marine Le Pen has also faced a similar scandal and the European Parliament has asked her to pay back almost 300,000 Euros which she has paid to her assistants.

Fillon said on Monday that he was a victim of "media lynching", but said he will step down if he ends up in court over the allegations against him - now the subject of an official investigation into whether his wife's work was fictitious or not.

He said his wife had worked constantly to assist in his constituency business and that her average monthly salary of 3,677 euros (around $4,000) after tax over the period was "perfectly justified" given her training in law and literature.

Polls carried out before his explanation show that Fillon, for months the leader of the race, would now be eliminated in the first round on April 23, with Le Pen and Macron moving on to the May 7 runoff.

Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron are expected to emerge as the two main candidates.

Fillon clarified that his wife was responsible for managing his mail, taking care of his schedule and representing him at certain cultural events.

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