Can­di­date res­o­lute in face of in­ves­ti­ga­tion

The Peterborough Examiner - - WORLD NEWS - AN­GELA CHARL­TON

PARIS — French fi­nan­cial prose­cu­tors de­cided Thurs­day to con­tinue their in­ves­ti­ga­tion of em­bez­zle­ment al­le­ga­tions against con­ser­va­tive pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Fran­cois Fil­lon, say­ing they have too much ev­i­dence to drop the case.

Fil­lon vowed to carry on his cam­paign amid the on­go­ing probe, which cen­tres on claims that his wife and two of his chil­dren earned as much as $1.1 mil­lion for fake par­lia­men­tary jobs. He has de­nied wrong­do­ing.

France’s al­ready un­pre­dictable pres­i­den­tial cam­paign plunged into un­cer­tainty when the na­tional fi­nan­cial pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice opened a pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion last month based on Le Ca­nard En­chaine news­pa­per’s pub­lished re­ports about the par­lia­men­tary jobs.

The pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said Thurs­day it re­ceived the ini­tial po­lice re­port on the case Wed­nes­day, and has de­cided to con­tinue in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

“The nu­mer­ous el­e­ments gath­ered al­ready do not al­low us to en­vis­age drop­ping the case in its cur­rent state,” the pros­e­cu­tor said in a state­ment. “The in­ves­ti­ga­tions will con­tinue.”

Polls con­sid­ered Fil­lon the fron­trun­ner for the April 23-May 7 elec­tion be­fore the scan­dal erupted. Cen­trist Em­manuel Macron and na­tion­al­ist Ma­rine Le Pen have seen their poll num­bers rise since then. Fil­lon ini­tially said he would step down from the race if he was charged, but has re­cently ap­peared de­ter­mined to con­tinue his cam­paign.

In a tweeted state­ment Thurs­day, he said the pros­e­cu­tor’s an­nounce­ment “is just an act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that feeds the me­dia soap opera. This does noth­ing to re­duce my de­ter­mi­na­tion.”

Fil­lon’s lawyers ac­cused the prose­cu­tors of vi­o­lat­ing rules about in­ves­tiga­tive se­crecy and sepa­ra­tion of pow­ers.

While it’s not il­le­gal for politi­cians in France to em­ploy fam­ily mem­bers, many vot­ers were shocked by al­le­ga­tions that the Fil­lon fam­ily’s jobs were fake — and by the large sums they were paid. Fil­lon won the con­ser­va­tive pri­mary on his rep­u­ta­tion as an un­sul­lied politi­cian and his prom­ises to slash pub­lic spend­ing.

A ju­di­cial of­fi­cial stressed that prose­cu­tors only have the ini­tial po­lice re­port and can­not make a de­ci­sion on pos­si­ble next steps un­til the fi­nal po­lice re­port is sub­mit­ted.

FRAN­COIS NASCIMBENI/GETTY IMAGES

French pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Fran­cois Fil­lon de­nies al­le­ga­tions that he gave his fam­ily fake par­lia­men­tary jobs and paid them as much as $1.1 mil­lion.

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