France sentences ex-PM Fillon, wife over misappropriation of public funds

by Maruf Adedeji

A French court in Paris has sentenced former French Prime Minister, François Fillon, to five years in prison, with three suspended, for using public funds to pay his wife and children for work they never performed.

His wife, Penelope Fillon, was served a three-year sentence for being an accomplice in the fraud that brought the family more than one million euros ($1.13m) since 1998.

The court verdicts were passed on Monday 29 June, 2020, following a guilty evidence of misappropriation of public funds, complicity and concealment levelled against the ex-PM, his wife and his former assistant, Marc Joulaud, respectively by the Paris tribunal.

Former French Prime Minister, François Fillon was prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy between 2007 and 2012.

Fillon will pay a fine of 375,000 euros ($423,000) and face a ten-year ban from running for elections over his involvement in a court-proven illegal payment of hundreds of thousands of euros from the public payroll to his immediate family for ‘little or no work’.

His wife Penelope has been served a suspended prison sentence of 3 years and a fine of 37,500 euros.

The Fillons and their co-defendants were also ordered to reimburse more than one million euros ($1.13 million) to the French National Assembly.

However, Fillon’s lawyer Antonin Lévy said the decision is not fair and they will appeal in a new trial, adding that in the past few days they began to understand the ludicrous conditions in which the investigation was launched.

The scandal broke in the French Media just three months before the country’s 2017 presidential election, as Fillon was the front-runner in the race. It cost him his reputation. Fillon sank to third place in the election, which was won by now President Emmanuel Macron.

“Fillon had a deep feeling of impunity, the certainty that his status would dissuade anyone from suing him. This gets cynical when that attitude comes from a man who made probity his trademark,” said Prosecutor Aurelien Letocart.

François Fillon, 66, insisted his wife’s job was real, and not fake. He cited the law backing separation of powers, which stipulates that justice system cannot interfere with how a legislator organises work at his office.

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