Sat, Apr 15, 2017 - Page 6 News List

French prosecutors ask EU to suspend Le Pen’s immunity

AFP, PARIS

French prosecutors have asked the European parliament to lift the immunity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen over an inquiry into alleged fake parliamentary jobs, legal sources said yesterday.

The revelation came just nine days before France heads to the polls for a highly unpredictable presidential election involving Le Pen, who heads the Front National (FN), one of the frontrunners in the April 23 first round.

The demand was made at the end of last month after she invoked her parliamentary immunity in refusing to attend questioning by investigating magistrates on March 10.

The case is linked to an expenses inquiry in which the European Parliament has accused Le Pen’s FN of defrauding it to the tune of 340,000 euros (US$360,000).

The parliament says that the party used funds allotted for parliamentary assistants to pay Le Pen’s personal assistant Catherine Griset and her bodyguard Thierry Legier for party work in France.

French investigators leading the case raided the party’s headquarters outside Paris last month in a bid to determine whether the FN used European funds to pay for 20 assistants — presented as parliamentary aides — who were working for the party elsewhere.

Le Pen shrugged off the request, saying it was “normal.”

“It’s totally normal procedure, I’m not surprised,” she told Franceinfo radio.

While polls still show Le Pen and independent Emmanuel Macron leading the field on about 22 to 24 percent each, their support is slipping, allowing Francois Fillon and communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and to narrow the gap with 18 to 20 percent each.

The two leaders of the first round will go through to a decisive run-off on May 7.

Surveys show Le Pen would be beaten by any of the other three main contenders at this point.

However, analysts have warned of a possible upset.

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