Exprime minister, wife convicted of embezzlement
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.
Former French Prime minister Francois Fillon and wife Penelope Fillon leave the Paris courthouse.