French authorities charge Marine Le Pen over misuse of European Union funds
- Author: Kyle Warner Jul 02, 2017,
Jul 02, 2017, 1:27
She has denied any wrongdoing.
The leader of France's far-right Front National party (FN), Marine Le Pen, faces formal investigations into the financing of past election campaigns and the tweeting of violent images from the so-called "Islamic State" after appearing in court Friday charged with alleged misuse of European Parliament funds.
Investigators suspect some National Front lawmakers used legislative aides for the party's political activities while they were on the European Parliament payroll. She was also charged with complicity of breach of trust for her wider role as head of the party.
She had invoked parliamentary immunity as a member of the European Parliament during her presidential and parliamentary campaigns but had pledged to cooperate with the investigation once the campaigns were over.
The case was triggered by a complaint from the European parliament, which accused the Front National of defrauding it on a large scale.
In a statement, her lawyer said she would launch an appeal.
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At the time, Le Pen was competing closely with ultimate victor Macron.
"There is nothing illegal", Florian Philippot, the party's vice president, said.
Her lawyer said she had been summoned by magistrates in Paris and "as expected, placed under criminal investigation". Her bodyguard was also questioned but was later released without being placed under investigation. A conviction for breach of trust charge carries a potential penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros ($428,000).
Several other National Front politicians - including Ms Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen - are being investigated.
The one-time front-runner in France's presidential race this year, conservative Francois Fillon, was charged over allegations that he paid his wife, who served as his parliamentary aide, and two children for work they did not perform.
Allegations surrounding the funding were raised shortly before the election, on April 27.