French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was charged Friday with allegedly misusing European Parliament funds to pay two parliamentary aides who also work at her National Front headquarters. Her lawyer said she will fight the charges.
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The prosecutor's office said Le Pen was summoned and handed preliminary charges of breach of trust and complicity in breach of trust concerning two aides when she served at the European Parliament.
Le Pen is suspected of using parliamentary funds to pay Catherine Griset from 2009 to 2016 and bodyguard Thierry Legier from 2014 to 2016 for allegedly working as aides in Strasbourg, seat of the European Parliament, even though they have clear roles in her far-right National Front party.
Le Pen is also charged with complicity in breach of trust in her role as president of the National Front from 2014-2016. That charge could not immediately be clarified.
Investigators suspect some National Front lawmakers used legislative aides for the party's political activities while they were on the European Parliament payroll. Griset was charged in February for allegedly receiving money through a breach of trust.
Le Pen denies the charges. She plans to file at the Appeals Court on Monday demanding that the preliminary charges be annulled due to "the violation of the principle of separation of powers," her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, said in a statement. She will also seek a suspension of the investigation.
His reference to "separation of powers" may relate to a contention that the French justice system should not interfere in political party affairs. Bosselut could not immediately be reached for comment.
Other European parliamentarians, including Le Pen's father Jean-Marie Le Pen and her companion Louis Aliot, have also been in the radar of the European investigative body OLAF for allegedly misusing parliamentary aides' wages.
Le Pen had twice refused summonses from authorities while campaigning, first for the French presidential election which she lost May 7 to Emmanuel Macron, then for a lawmaker's seat in the French National Assembly which she won on June 18. Due to that win, Le Pen gave up her seat in the European Parliament.