PARIS – Paris prosecutors are investigating a report by the European Union’s anti-fraud agency accusing far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and other members of her nationalist party of embezzling public funds while they sat in the European Parliament.
The report was leaked by French investigative news site Mediapart days before Le Pen faces incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in a run-off election on Sunday that could determine the future direction of Europe. . Le Pen’s party, the National Rally, seeks to reduce the powers of the EU.
Party lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut said he denied any wrongdoing and questioned the timing of Mediapart’s publication, just before the second round of presidential elections.
Macron, a pro-EU centrist, leads Le Pen in the polls ahead of Sunday’s vote, although the race is tighter than when they faced off in 2017.
The EU’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF, submitted its report last month to the Paris prosecutor’s office, which is “under analysis”, the prosecutor’s office said on Monday. No official investigation has yet been opened and no further details have been released.
According to Mediapart, the OLAF report revealed that Le Pen, his incendiary father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen and other party members who served in the European Parliament used 617,000 euros of public money to for “fictitious” purposes, in particular for the benefit of companies close to the party. The fraud office would seek reimbursement of funds and potential fraud and embezzlement charges.
OLAF accused party members of “serious violations” and said the “inappropriate behavior” of members of the National Rally – formerly known as the National Front – “endangered the reputation of the institutions of the Union”, according to Mediapart.
OLAF did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday, a public holiday in Belgium and several European countries.
This is not the first time that Le Pen and his party have been accused of embezzling European funds. Among several court cases that have dogged his party, Le Pen faced preliminary charges in 2018 based on a separate OLAF investigation accusing members of the National Rally of using government payroll aid. European Parliament for the political activity of the party.
Le Pen, who served in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2017, met with supporters Monday in the Normandy town of Saint-Pierre-en-Auge. She and Macron face a crucial debate on Wednesday.
Follow AP’s coverage of the French elections at https://apnews.com/hub/french-election-2022
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