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French billionaire questioned over Fillon wife fake job allegation

François and Penelope Fillon at his last election rally
François and Penelope Fillon at his last election rally Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French judges have relaunched the inquiry into failed presidential candidate François Fillon, questioning billionaire Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière over an alleged fake job for Fillon's wife Penelope at a magazine he owns.

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After a break in the investigation during the final weeks of the presidential election campaign, three judges questioned Ladreit de Lacharrière on Friday, theJournal de Dimanche newspaper revealed on Sunday.

They are investigating him for misuse of corporate assets because he paid Fillon's British-born wife a monthly pre-tax salary of 5,000 euros a month as a "literary consultant" from May 2012 to December 2013.

He tried to convince them that Penelope Fillon's job was real, according to the paper, but his answers, which were more or less the same he gave to police in previous interrogations, failed to convince them.

Fake jobs, suits and loan

Ladreit de Lacharrière is a close friend and political ally of Fillon, who represented the right-wing Republicans party in the presidential race.

Fillon went from a high rating in the opinion polls to third in the first round of voting after being hit by a series of corruption allegations.

He has been accused of providing his wife and children with fake jobs at taxpayers' expense while an MP and minister and of being given suits worth 12,000 euros from a supporter.

He has also admitted taking a 50,000-euro interest-free loan from Ladreit de Lacharrière and not declaring it to a transparency watchdog.

Fillon, who has been charged as has his wife, claims to be the victim of a political witch-hunt.

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