PARIS (AP) – A court in Paris has found former French Prime Minister François Fillon guilty of using public funds to pay his wife and children for work they never did.
His wife, Penelope Fillon, has also been found guilty of an accomplice.
The court has not yet worked out the sentence.
The work had earned the family more than $ 1 million ($ 1.08 million) since 1998.
The scandal broke out in the French media just three months before the 2017 presidential election, as Fillon was the front runner in the race. It took his reputation away. Fillon dropped to third place in the election, which was won by Emmanuel Macron.
Fillon, who was Prime Minister of France from 2007 to 2012, and his wife have denied any wrongdoing and may appeal the decision.
The role of Penelope Fillon alongside her husband drew all the attention during the February-March trial, which focused on determining whether her activities were in the traditional role of an elected official partner – or were actually paid work.
Prosecutors denounced “fraudulent, systematic practices” and asked for five years’ imprisonment, including a three-year suspended sentence, and a fine of EUR 375,000 (more than $ 415,000) against Francois Fillon, and a three-year suspended fine against the same fine. his wife.
Fillon has been charged with misuse of public funds, receiving money from misuse of public funds and misappropriation of corporate assets. His wife was usually charged as an accomplice.
At the trial, Penelope Fillon explained how she decided to support her husband’s career when he was first elected as a French legislator in 1981 in the small town of Sable-sur-Sarthe, in the countryside of western France.
Over the years, she was offered different types of contracts as a parliamentary assistant depending on her husband’s political career.
She described her work as reporting on local issues, opening the mail, meeting residents, and helping prepare speeches for local events. She said that working that way allowed her to have a flexible schedule and raise their five children at the Fillons’ mansion. She said her husband was the one who determined the details of her contracts.
Prosecutors pointed to the lack of factual evidence of her work, including the lack of paid vacation or maternity leave statements, as her wages rose to nine times France’s minimum wage.
Prosecutor Aurelien Letocart argued that “meeting the voters, taking the children out of school, running errands or reading the post is not meant to be in paid work.”
Letocart said that Fillon had “a deep sense of impunity, the certainty that his status would stop anyone from suing him … This becomes cynical when that attitude comes from a man who made honesty his trademark.”
Francois Fillon insisted that his wife’s job was real, saying that according to the separation of powers, the legal system should not interfere with the way a legislator organizes work in his office.
In addition, the costs also cover a contract that allowed Penelope Fillon to earn $ 135,000 in 2012-2013 as a consultant to a literary magazine owned by a friend of her husband’s – also an alleged fake job. The magazine’s owner, Marc de Lacharriere, has already pleaded guilty and received an eight-month suspended sentence and a fine of 375,000 euros in 2018.
The National Assembly, which is involved in the proceedings as a civil claimant, has requested a total fine of EUR 1.081 million corresponding to the salaries and salary costs paid.
Once the youngest legislator at the National Assembly at the age of 27, Fillon was Prime Minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012. He was also a minister under two previous presidents, Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.
He left French politics in 2017 and now works for an asset manager.
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