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Would-be President of France Marine Le Pen was tonight at the centre of a major criminal fraud enquiry – after she and senior colleagues were accused of stealing more than half-a-million pounds from the European Union.
EU investigators have accused Le Pen, 53, and her own father Jean-Marie Le Pen, 93, of embezzling some €620,000 (£513,000) on behalf of their party, the far-Right National Rally.
The allegations were made public on Sunday – exactly a week before Ms Le Pen goes head-to-head against Emmanuel Macron to choose France’s new president.
Le Pen, pictured at a rally on Thursday, is said to be ‘dismayed’ by the timing of the fraud probe
‘Marine Le Pen is dismayed,’ said her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, who said the timing of the release appeared to be deeply political.
Mr Bosselut accused Olaf, the EU’s anti-fraud agency, of dragging up ‘old facts that are more than ten years old’.
He added: ‘Marine Le Pen contests this. She contests it without having had access to the details of the accusations. It’s a manipulation, and unfortunately, I’m not surprised.’
It followed Mediapart, the Paris-based investigative news outlet, publishing the 116-page Olaf report into the fraud claims.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 93, pictured at an EU court in 2017, has been accused of misuse of funds
They are accused of diverting £517,000 in EU funds to their party and own causes (file image)
They accuse Le Pen of personally diverting some £114,00 (€137,000) of EU funds taken illegally during her time as an MEP, between 2004 and 2017, into party coffers.
Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen – who founded the National Rally as the National Front in 1972 – is also implicated.
So too is her former boyfriend Louis Aliot, now the Mayor of Perpignan, who also denied any wrongdoing on Sunday.
Le Pen has also been under investigation for ‘breach of trust’ and ‘misuse of public funds,’ in relation to the alleged illegal use of EU cash to pay RN staff.
She is said to have used thousands to pay a former French Army paratrooper to be her personal bodyguard, for example.
Opinion polls published in France over the weekend point to Macron winning next Sunday’s election by as many as 10 points.
In 2017, Macron beat Le Pen with 66 per cent of the second-round vote, compared to 34 per cent for Le Pen.
Source: Daily Mail