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Fillon Placed Under Probe

Francois FillonFrancois Fillon

French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has been placed under formal investigation into allegations he had his wife and children paid hundreds of thousands of euros for parliamentary jobs they may have never performed.

Investigating judges are now looking into allegations that Fillon profited from the misuse of public funds and improperly declared his assets among other charges, the national financial prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday, France24 reported.

Being placed under formal investigation in France is akin to facing preliminary charges but does not always lead to a trial.

This latest legal decision further damages the former prime minister and onetime frontrunner’s chances for victory in France’s upcoming presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for April 23 with a second round to follow on May 7.

Fillon has been plagued by allegations that he arranged to have his family paid handsomely for work they did not actually perform. French media have reported that his Welsh-born wife Penelope was paid almost €1 million to serve as his parliamentary assistant. But investigations have found no evidence that she did any government work and Fillon herself has denied ever having worked as an aide to her husband.

“I have never been actually his assistant or anything like that,” she told the Telegraph in 2007.

But earlier this month she appeared to backtrack on these statements, saying that she was, in fact, employed by her husband.

“He needed someone to do a lot of different tasks, and if it wasn’t for me, he would have paid someone to do it, so we decided it would be me,” Penelope told Le Journal du Dimanche.

French lawmakers are allowed to employ family members but investigators are still looking for evidence of what work she performed.

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