They try to torpedo Macron's rival with compromising evidence
The closer the second round of the presidential elections in France, scheduled for April 24, the tougher the struggle between the two finalists becomes – President Macron and leader of the “National Rally” Marine Le Pen. The European Union, which clearly sympathizes with the pro-European incumbent head of the Fifth Republic, fired a “torpedo” at the far-right candidate, accusing her of embezzling large sums.
The European Union's anti-fraud body accused Marine Le Pen and several members of her party, including her father, of embezzling about 620,000 euros while working as members of the European Parliament writes The Guardian.
French investigative website Mediapart has published a section of a new report alleging MEPs have misused EU funds for national party purposes.
The allegations come a week before the second round of the April 24th presidential election, in which Marine Le Pen will fight Emmanuel Macron.
A spokesman for Le Pen's far-right National Rally party questioned the timing of the charges. Le Pen's lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselu, told Agence France-Presse that he was “alarmed by the way the European Anti-Fraud Office is doing.” He insists that part of the report is related to “old facts that are more than 10 years old.”
“Marine Le Pen disputes this. She disputes this without having access to the details of the charge. This is manipulation; unfortunately, I'm not surprised,” Bossel told the French channel BFMTV.
According to Mediapart, the European Anti-Fraud Office sent a report to French investigators in March. He accused Le Pen of personally diverting almost 137,000 euros from EU funds when she was an MEP between 2004 and 2017. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen; Louis Aliot, her former partner and former vice-president of the National Rally, now Mayor of Perpignan; and Bruno Gollnisch, another party heavyweight, are also mentioned in the report as abusing public money. All deny any wrongdoing.
In one incident reported by Mediapart, Marine Le Pen demanded €5,000 for hotel rooms in 2010 for 13 far-right party members to attend a conference called “European Regions and the Financial Crisis.” However, one participant allegedly wrote to the European Parliament and claimed that the meeting was being used to discuss the party's presidential prospects. An unnamed participant told investigators that Le Pen hoisted a European flag along the way to take a picture, and then allegedly ordered colleagues to “take this shit away.”
The Paris prosecutor's office said the case was “under study.”
None of those mentioned in the report are accused of making personal profits, but instead of demanding EU funds to pay for the staff and activities of the “National Rally” (formerly the “National Front”).
Marine Le Pen stated that she did not know that she had done something wrong.
Le Pen has been under investigation since 2018 on allegations of “breach of confidence” and “misuse of public funds” in connection with the alleged use of EU money for European Parliament aides to fund the salaries of party staff. That same year, an EU court ruled that the bloc could recover more than 41,000 euros in public funds that Le Pen used to pay her bodyguard, a former paratrooper who had been her father's bodyguard for 20 years.
Lawyer Bosselu said that Marine Le Pen “was not called by any French judicial authority” and accused the European authorities of not sending him or Le Pen the final report.
The latest opinion poll published by Ipsos for FranceInfo and Le Parisien suggest that Macron could beat Marine Le Pen in the second round next week by 10 percentage points. In the meantime, both candidates are trying to win over supporters of the radical left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who almost made it to the second round. Apparently, about a third of his electorate is ready to vote for Macron, while Mélenchon urged his voters not to cast a single vote for the far-right Marine Le Pen.