The judge orders Marine Le Pen to undergo a psychological examination
Prosecutors in Paris said on Friday (22/09) that French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and 23 other members of her party should be tried on charges of misusing European Union resources, indicating that the investigations, which have lasted nearly seven years, have progressed to the stage of… New.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office opened the investigation in December 2016 with the aim of investigating whether the party, then called the National Front, had used funds allocated to pay the salaries of European Parliament advisors to finance the employees of the far-right party in France.
Vacant advisory positions in the EU legislature have not been filled, although far-rights have received money to pay for these positions and passed it on to party officials.
Le Pen and her supporters were criminally prosecuted for embezzlement of public resources and collusion, and accused of using European Parliament funds to pay the salaries of members of the party, currently called the National Rally (RN). They deny all accusations.
Prosecutors allege that since 2004, National Front MPs, including Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s co-founder, benefited from the bogus jobs scheme. They claim that a total of €6.8 million was embezzled between 2009 and 2017.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office requested the opening of a trial against 11 members of the European Parliament, 12 parliamentary assistants and four other party collaborators. The far-right party itself will face legal action for allegedly covering up violations.
The penalties stipulated in the charges include imprisonment for up to ten years and fines in amounts that can reach twice the amount allegedly embezzled.
Possibility of disqualification
If convicted, Le Pen could be ineligible for up to ten years, making her plans to run again for president of France in 2027 impossible.
The far-right renounced her term as a member of the European Parliament in 2017 after being elected to the National Assembly. Le Pen ran for president of France in two elections, in 2017 and 2022, and lost both times to current President Emmanuel Macron.
Le Pen’s lawyer said that she agreed to return the amounts she obtained in the suspected fraud case to the European Parliament, after opening an administrative procedure to recover the funds.
The European Anti-Fraud Office estimates that the right-wing populist owes €339,000 due to illicit payments to her chief of staff, Catherine Gresset, and her bodyguard, Thierry Leger.
She reportedly paid nearly €330,000 in July, but according to her lawyer, “this in no way constitutes an explicit or implicit admission of the European Parliament’s allegations.”
She had previously refused to pay the amount, prompting the European Parliament to withhold her payments in the final months of her term as an MEP.
In a separate case, the European Anti-Fraud Office estimates that around €600,000 in expenses alleged by Le Pen and three other MEPs were used to fund the party’s operations in France.
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