Assistants to FN MEPs: Marine Le Pen threatened with a resounding trial

Marine Le Pen, her party and her leadership of the 2010s soon to be tried for embezzlement of public funds? The Paris prosecutor's office has requested a trial for the National Rally and 27 people, suspected of having taken EU money between 2004 and 2016 to pay assistants actually working for the party

Assistants to FN MEPs: Marine Le Pen threatened with a resounding trial

Marine Le Pen, her party and her leadership of the 2010s soon to be tried for embezzlement of public funds? The Paris prosecutor's office has requested a trial for the National Rally and 27 people, suspected of having taken EU money between 2004 and 2016 to pay assistants actually working for the party.

“We contest this vision which seems erroneous to us of the work of opposition deputies and their assistants which is above all political,” Marine Le Pen’s entourage quickly reacted, contacted by AFP.

The list of people targeted by the public prosecutor - 11 people having been elected MEPs on National Front lists (since renamed RN), 12 others having been their parliamentary assistants, but also four collaborators of the far-right party - brings together the vast majority party figures from the mid-2010s.

The two historic leaders of the flame party are thus threatened with a trial, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who co-founded it in 1972, and Marine Le Pen, who assumed its presidency between 2011 and 2022.

But also the mayor of Perpignan Louis Aliot, the former number 2 of the party Bruno Gollnisch, his ex-administration boss Nicolas Bay who has since moved to Eric Zemmour, the ex-treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just, the deputy and spokesperson for the RN Julien Odoul, the former party printer Fernand Le Rachinel...

Only one notable exception: Florian Philippot, number two in the party for several years, was exonerated.

“Among our adversaries, all their assistants exercised functions within the framework of their party,” Mr. Gollnisch put things into perspective with AFP.

Le Modem and its founder François Bayrou will be judged for comparable facts between October and November.

For Mr. de Saint-Just, in the case of the FN, "everyone will plead for acquittal and we will obtain it for questions of principle: the judiciary cannot interfere in the work of the legislature."

The decision on whether a trial will actually be held now rests with the investigating judges.

The Paris prosecutor's office underlined on Friday the large size of the procedure, eight years old, but also the "very numerous appeals" filed which delayed it.

The public prosecutor also insisted on the importance of the penalties incurred, ten years of imprisonment, a large fine but also an additional penalty of ineligibility which can reach up to ten years.

A major threat for Marine Le Pen, who presented herself on Monday as the “natural candidate” of her camp for the 2027 presidential election.

The investigation began in March 2015, after a report from the European Parliament. The investigations were then entrusted at the end of 2016 to two Parisian financial investigating judges.

After several refusals to appear before the judges, Marine Le Pen was indicted in June 2017 for “breach of trust” and “complicity”, charges later reclassified as “embezzlement of public funds”.

In its 197 pages of requisitions, the Paris prosecutor's office evokes "a real system put in place to have the European Parliament bear part of the operating costs of the FN by covering the salaries of a growing number of its employees".

The public prosecutor puts forward a motive: the party was then “in great financial difficulty”.

The former treasurer wrote this letter to Marine Le Pen in 2014: "We will only get out of this if we make significant savings thanks to the European Parliament (...)".

For the 2014-2019 legislature, at the heart of the case, the prosecution affirms that Marine Le Pen "imposed on the newly elected FN MEPs that they make part of their budget available to her", 21,000 euros monthly, "for remuneration of collaborators in order to relieve the finances of the FN."

The European Parliament, the civil party, estimated its damage in 2018 at 6.8 million euros for the years 2009 to 2017.

He "totally shares" the "position of the prosecutor", one of his lawyers, Me Patrick Maisonneuve, reacted to AFP.

The European Parliament has initiated procedures to recover the sums in question. In July, Marine Le Pen finished repaying 339,000 euros, while contesting the analysis.

In a separate file revealed by Mediapart in 2022, the European Anti-Fraud Office (Olaf) also accused the FN of undue use of mandate fees, in particular by Ms. Le Pen. The European Parliament had announced its intention to recover the 600,000 euros in question.

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22/09/2023 17:49:05 -         Paris (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP