French police have raided the headquarters of the country’s far-right Front National (FN) Party, led by frontrunner presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, as part of a probe into her alleged misuse of EU funds.
The party said in a statement the FN Party’s headquarters near Paris was searched by French investigators, who are probing the “fake jobs” allegations by European Union officials in Brussels against Le Pen.
Brussels claims Le Pen, also a member of the European Parliament (MEP), used EU funds to pay a total of €340,000 to her bodyguard and a Paris-based assistant, claiming that they were EU parliamentary assistants.
This is while, under EU rules, a person needs to be physically working in one of the European parliament’s three offices in Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg and reside near that workplace to qualify as an EP assistant.
The European anti-fraud office (Olaf) insists that 48-year-old Le Pen, who remains a frontrunner in France’s presidential campaign, must reimburse the misused funds despite her refusal to do so. The French politician dismisses the official investigation as a bid to undermine her lead in the polls.
“I formally contest this unilateral and illegal decision taken by political opponents … without proof and without waiting for a judgment from the court action I have started,” Le Pen said in an interview with Reuters.
French investigators launched a preliminary inquiry into fraud by Le Pen’s party in December following Olaf’s claims. Monday’s raids on the FN offices were part of their search for evidence.
An FN statement following the police search of its headquarters said Monday’s raids were an attempt to “disturb the smooth running of the presidential campaign and to sink Marine Le Pen at the moment her campaign is making strides with voting intentions.”