The Associated Press PARIS (AP) — French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was given preliminary charges Tuesday in an investigation of taxpayer-funded jobs his wife and children received but allegedly never performed.
A top contender in a French presidential election never has reached such a critical step in a criminal investigation, yet Fillon has vowed to keep campaigning less than six weeks before the contest’s first round.
The charges further damage the image of the former prime minister, who used to tout his reputation for probity. And it further reduces his chances of winning the two-round April 23-May 7 presidential election in which he once was viewed as the leading contender.
Investigating judges filed the charges Tuesday, Celine Clement-Petremann of the national financial prosecutor’s office said. It was a surprise move — Fillon had said the judges summoned him for Wednesday, but they apparently moved up the decision.
Fillon is accused of misusing public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds, complicity in misusing public funds and improper declaration of assets, among other charges, the prosecutor’s office said.
Under French law, preliminary charges mean that investigating magistrates have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing, but are seeking more time to investigate before deciding whether to send the case to trial.
Fillon has denied wrongdoing and vowed to continue his campaign.
“Yes, I employed my wife and the reality of her work is undeniable,” he told the judges according to a statement published by French media.