Ex­prime min­is­ter, wife con­victed of embezzleme­nt

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By Aure­lien Bree­den Aure­lien Bree­den is a New York Times writer.

PARIS — Fran­cois Fil­lon, a for­mer French prime min­is­ter, was found guilty Mon­day of em­bez­zling pub­lic funds and sen­tenced to prison in a scan­dal in­volv­ing a no­show job for his wife that crip­pled his fron­trun­ner sta­tus in the 2017 pres­i­den­tial race.

Fil­lon, 66, who was prime min­is­ter from 2007 to 2012, was ac­cused of pay­ing his wife hun­dreds of thou­sands of eu­ros from the pub­lic pay­roll for lit­tle or no work as his aide when he served as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the lower house of the French Par­lia­ment.

The case against Fil­lon threw the elec­tion into tur­moil and opened a path to vic­tory for Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, who at the time was a cen­trist out­sider with lit­tle po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Fil­lon was sen­tenced by a court in Paris to a five­year prison term, with three years sus­pended, and was or­dered to pay a fine of 375,000 eu­ros, or nearly $423,000. The court also barred him from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice for 10 years. Fil­lon’s wife, Pene­lope Fil­lon, 64, was found guilty of com­plic­ity and re­ceived a three­year sus­pended prison term and a fine of 375,000 eu­ros.

Marc Joulaud, who re­placed Fil­lon as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the ru­ral Sarthe re­gion of north­west­ern France from 2002 to 2005 and who also hired Pene­lope Fil­lon as an aide, was found guilty and sen­tenced to a three­year sus­pended prison term and a fine of 20,000 eu­ros.

The court also or­dered the Fil­lons and Joulaud to re­im­burse more than 1 mil­lion eu­ros in to­tal to the Na­tional Assem­bly, the lower house of the French Par­lia­ment, which joined the trial as a civil plain­tiff and es­ti­mated that it had been de­frauded of that amount.

The case against Fil­lon tapped into broader re­sent­ment of France’s elite po­lit­i­cal class, its cozy fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments and its re­luc­tance to en­act strict eth­i­cal stan­dards. Hir­ing close fam­ily mem­bers as par­lia­men­tary aides was not il­le­gal at the time — and Fil­lon was not the only one to do so — but the prac­tice was banned later in 2017.

Nathalie Gavarino, the pre­sid­ing judge in the case, said as she read the court’s rul­ing that Fil­lon had let his “per­sonal in­ter­est” in en­rich­ing him­self pre­vail over the “com­mon good.”

Lawyers for the cou­ple said they planned to ap­peal the ver­dict, mean­ing the sen­tences and penal­ties will not go into ef­fect im­me­di­ately.

Thomas Sam­son / AFP via Getty Images

For­mer French Prime min­is­ter Fran­cois Fil­lon and wife Pene­lope Fil­lon leave the Paris court­house.

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