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Marine Le Pen under pressure over EU ‘fake jobs’ report

Published: (Updated: ) in European News by .

A leaked police report says Marine Le Pen orchestrated the misappropriation of €6.8 million of EU funds to pay for National Rally activities.

PARIS – French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti has accused Marine Le Pen of trying to dismiss an investigation into her as being politically motivated.

The criticism comes after Journal du Dimanche, a weekly newspaper, reported Sunday that the National Rally had set up “an organized fraudulent system of misappropriation of European funds via [the creation of] fake jobs for parliamentary assistants,” citing a 98-page police report.

Le Pen, who’s trailing President Emmanuel Macron in polls ahead of a 2022 election, dismissed the allegations on Twitter as being “nothing new” and showed on the contrary how well she was doing in the polls.

“[Le Pen] uses and exploits to her advantage this investigation to say that the police, which she usually supports for political reasons, obeyed instructions from the justice minister. That’s double defamation,” Dupond-Moretti told BFMTV late on Sunday.

“So I phoned up the police to ask them to leak this story? It’s a lie, it’s a scandal. I’m asking Marine Le Pen and her friends to respect the police. They keep telling us to respect the police, except when she is in the line of fire,” he said.

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Several leading figures from the National Rally have said that the report, emerging a couple of weeks before regional elections, was politically motivated.

“It’s an old trick, clear manipulation,” says party treasurer and co-defendant Wallerand de Saint-Just. “Eric Dupond-Moretti knew about, or ordered, the police report.”

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“He said he was going to hunt down National Rally voters, so of course he knew about this,” he said, asking why police officers would write up a summary report mid-investigation.  

The justice minister is running as a candidate for La République En Marche in the northern region of the Hauts-de-France, a National Rally stronghold, in the regional elections in June.

Bodyguards and party officials

Officers of France’s anti-corruption police unit OCLCIFF have been investigating several National Rally (RN) figures for alleged misappropriation of public funds since 2016.

In 2018, Le Pen and 13 other figures were placed under formal investigation for corruption and have been accused of using EU funds to pay for security and party officials.

According to the leaked police report cited by the Journal du Dimanche, Le Pen’s bodyguard Thierry Légier received a monthly income of more than €9,000 for several months of work as a part-time parliamentary assistant.

De Saint-Just denied any wrongdoing. “All the parliamentary assistants worked in favour of the parliamentary activity of their MEPs,” he said.

“The European Parliament knew that this assistant was also working as her bodyguard,” said de Saint-Just. “There was a backlog of unpaid salaries, he was not paid €9,000 euros a month.”

The leaked police report gives details of how the RN (formerly the National Front) is said to have organized the alleged misuse of EU funds after EU elections in 2014.

According to the Journal du Dimanche report, Le Pen held a meeting with newly elected MEPs in Brussels in June 2014, informing them that the party would impose a number of assistants. Belgian accountant Charles Van Houtte is said to have implemented the system.

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“Investigations show that he asked National Front MEPs to sign proxy authorizations to gain access to the financial and administrative details of the budgets of MEPs,” write investigators quoted by Journal du Dimanche. Several witnesses questioned by investigators say Le Pen was aware of, and supervised, the system.

According to de Saint-Just, Le Pen was aware that credits were “mutualized” and that assistants are not necessarily remunerated by their own MEP.

“All the parties [at the EU Parliament] do it,” he said. “She was president of the group and played a role in the organization. But there wasn’t a so-called system here. Police officers are playing out an old film in their heads.”

Van Houtte did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trading barbs

The clash over the leaked report is the latest in a series of confrontations between Le Pen and Dupond-Moretti ahead of next month’s regional elections.

Both are running as candidates in the Hauts-de-France: Le Pen as a local candidate in the town of Hénin-Beaumont, and Dupond-Moretti in the regional elections.

They have been trading barbs, with Dupond-Moretti recently calling the National Rally “a danger for democracy” and Le Pen calling the minister an “extreme-left activist.”

But in private, Le Pen has confided that the justice minister is her “best election agent” because of his ability to “whip up the opposition of National Rally voters.”

Maïa de la Baume contributed to reporting.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/national-rally-marine-le-pen-under-pressure-over-eu-fake-jobs-report/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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