Fil­lon to Stay in French Race, Says Wife’s Pay Jus­ti­fied

The Economic Times - - Around The World -

Paris: French rightwing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Fran­cois Fil­lon on Mon­day apol­o­gised for hir­ing his wife as a par­lia-men­tary aide, ad­mit­ting he made an “er­ror” but re­fus­ing to quit the race.

Fil­lon’s pres­i­den­tial bid has been floun­der­ing since it emerged that his Bri­tish-born spouse was paid over 800,000 eu­ros ($860,000) from pub­lic funds be­tween 1998 and 2013 as a par­lia­men­tary as­sis­tant.

He also hired two of his chil­dren as as­sis­tants, pay­ing them 84,000 eu­ros ($91,000) pre-tax be­tween 2005 and 2007. “It was an er­ror, I pro­foundly re­gret it and I apol­o­gise to the French,” a com­bat­ive Fil­lon told a press con­fer­ence while in­sist­ing he had done noth­ing il­le­gal and that his wife Pene­lope’s earn­ings were “jus­ti­fied”.

Fil­lon, 62, said he had hired fam­ily mem­bers — as al­lowed in France — out of “trust” but recog­nised that such prac-tises “cre­ate dis­trust nowa­days”. Ad­dress­ing alle g ations that Pene­lope did not ac­tu­ally per­form any du­ties, Fil­lon said: “No one has the right to judge what a par­lia­men­tary as­sis­tant’s job con­sists of, ex- cept the MP him­self.”

He said his wife had worked con­stantly to as­sist in his con­stituency busi­ness and that her av­er­age monthly salary of 3,677 eu­ros (around $4,000) after tax over the pe­riod was “per­fectly jus­ti­fied” given her train­ing in law and lit­era-ture.

He again pre­sented him­self as the vic­tim of a smear cam­paign and ruled out step­ping back in favour of an­other Re-pub­li­cans party can­di­date, say­ing there was no “Plan B’.

“I am a can­di­date for the pres­i­dency to win it,” he said.

Fil­lon’s re­marks were an at­tempt to bury a scan­dal that has dogged his cam­paign for nearly two weeks, trig­ger­ing a pre­lim­i­nary probe into pos­si­ble mis­use of pub­lic funds.

Fran­cois Fil­lon

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