France's National Front treasurer charged in financing probe

GMT 12:12 2015 Tuesday ,22 September

Arab Today, arab today France's National Front treasurer charged in financing probe

France's far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen
Paris - AFP

The treasurer of France's far-right National Front was charged Tuesday with misuse of assets as part of an ongoing probe into the party's campaign financing, a judicial source said.

The FN itself was hit with the same charge, as well as complicity in fraud, earlier this month.

Investigating judges suspect senior party officials and associated companies defrauded the state by inflating campaign expenses for the 2012 legislative elections.

Party treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just, who heads the FN's electoral list in the Paris region for December regional elections, was also made an "assisted witness" in the charge of complicity in fraud.

This means he can be called upon to testify but is not a suspect on that charge.

"We are innocent of all the accusations against us," the treasurer said when the FN was charged on September 9.

Its fund-raising arm, a so-called "micro-party" named Jeanne, is suspected of having received illicit financing from an events company, which has already been charged along with six other people in the probe.

The charges against the FN come three months before regional elections seen as a litmus test ahead of 2017 presidential polls.

The party is riding high in opinion polls despite its legal woes and a bitter family feud in which leader Marine Le Pen ousted her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen over a string of controversial remarks.

While the FN remains anti-EU and anti-immigration it has worked hard to soften its image since Marine Le Pen took over in 2011 and has seen its popularity soar, enjoying a series of election successes. 

Several polls have shown she could pose a serious challenge to the conservative Republicans of former president Nicolas Sarkozy as well as the ruling Socialists in 2017.

The FN is also under investigation by the European Parliament for suspected fraud totalling 7.5 million euros ($8.1 million) over salaries paid to EU parliamentary assistants.

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