Prosecutor recommends trial for alleged misuse of EU funds by French far-right leader Le Pen

Prosecutor recommends trial for alleged misuse of EU funds by French far-right leader Le Pen

On Friday, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced that Marine Le Pen, a far-right leader and former head of the French National Rally party, and 23 other party members will face trial for allegedly misusing EU funds. The investigation began in December 2016 and aimed to determine if the National Front had used funds intended for EU parliamentary assistants to pay staff working for the party. While EU lawmakers receive funds to cover expenses, including those for their assistants, they are not supposed to use these funds for party expenditures.

Over three EU parliament terms from 2004 to 2016, the prosecutor’s office investigated the cases of approximately 49 assistants. This investigation was initiated by a report from Parliament that identified certain assistants who held high-ranking positions within Le Pen’s political party, now called the Rassemblement National (RN). Such positions were incompatible with their full-time parliamentary duties.

The prosecutor’s office found that Le Pen and other party members utilised funds allocated for paying assistants of European Parliament members to pay the employees of the National Rally.

It has been reported that Le Pen may face severe consequences if her case goes to court, including a possible prison sentence of up to ten years and a hefty fine of one million euros. Additionally, since Le Pen is an elected official, she could be ineligible to hold public office for a decade. Many consider Le Pen a strong contender for the next election in 2027. The decision of whether or not to proceed with a trial will be left up to the judges.

The far-right likes to spend the EU’s money.

On July 4, 2018, the former European Parliament President, Antonio Tajani, took action against 35 far-right lawmakers for misusing taxpayer funds. The lawmakers, who were part of the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group, now replaced by Identity and Democracy, spent €478,000 on unwarranted expenses in 2016. The Parliament’s auditors discovered that the costs included over 230 bottles of champagne, 110 Christmas presents worth €100 each, a lavish Christmas dinner for 140 people, costing more than €13,500, and a visit to an upmarket Parisian restaurant, with a per-person cost of over €440. The Parliament asked lawmakers to return more than half a million euros of taxpayers’ money.

Another set meal for two at a Paris restaurant, costing €401 per head, was reportedly a tête-à-tête between Marine Le Pen and Italian League leader Matteo Salvini, according to French weekly Le Canard Enchaine.

The ENF group, including members of France’s National Rally party, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), and Italy’s League, was reprimanded in 2017 for €66,500 in unjustified expense spending.

The far-right group at the European Parliament received in 2018 €3.25m in EU funds.

On June 19, 2018, the General Court of the European Union upheld a decision by the European Parliament to recover €300,000 from Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Rally party (formerly known as the National Front). Le Pen used parliamentary funds to pay an aide at her party headquarters in Paris. The court rejected Le Pen’s attempt to overturn the ruling and stated that she had not proven the effectiveness of the assistant’s work. The court also noted that Le Pen provided no evidence of any parliamentary assistance activity on the part of the assistant, which she acknowledged during the hearing. As a result, the European Parliament proceeded to recover the funds from Le Pen.


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