Former French PM Fillon and British-born wife to face fake job trial
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Former French prime minister François Fillon, whose 2017 bid for the presidency imploded in the wake of a fake job scandal involving his wife, is to face trial over the allegations.
Investigating judges have recommended Fillon be tried on charges of misusing public money, misuse of corporate assets, conspiracy and failing fully to disclose his financial position.
His Welsh-born wife Penelope faces the lesser charges of complicity in the misuse of public money and conspiring to misuse corporate assets.
"It's the normal next step in the process," one of Fillon's political allies said on condition of anonymity.
Fillon was widely viewed as being on track to win the French presidency before revelations published by the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné in January 2017 shattered his credibility.
His fall from grace opened the way for centrist Emmanuel Macron to win the election and dealt a blow to Fillon's conservative Les Republicains party, one of the mainstays of French political life, from which it is still struggling to recover.
Over several articles, Le Canard Enchaîné said it had seen payslips showing that Penelope Fillon had been paid 680,000 euros as a parliamentary assistant to her husband between 1986 and 2013, but had done little or no work at the National Assembly and had no pass card to enter the building.
She had also been paid a monthly salary by a magazine owned by a billionaire friend of the couple, La Revue des Deux Mondes, despite the editor never having seen her.
Fillon has also admitted taking an interest-free loan of 50,000 euros from the owner of the magazine, Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, without declaring it to the public service watchdog.
A lawyer for Fillon, Antonin Levy, said today that news of the trial had been leaked to the press before his client had been informed.
Fillon, who had campaigned as a clean pair of hands, has always denied the allegations and accused Le Canard Enchaîné, investigators and the government of conspiring with his political rivals who were operating a "secret cell" to bring him down.
The man who had served as prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy between 2007-2012, ended up finishing third in the first round of voting in April 2017 -- behind Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
A low-key political wife who avoided the limelight, Penelope Fillon was known as a keen horse-rider who once described herself as a simple country person who preferred the rural life to Paris.
In examining Fillon's insistence that his wife had "always" worked to help his career, French media homed in on previous comments she made.
Penelope said in several interviews that she had never been involved in her husband's political career.
The case is expected to come to trial before the end of the year.
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