France's Marine Le Pen Charged Over Misuse Of EU Funds

| by Sarah Zimmerman
Marine Le PenMarine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, former French presidential candidate and head of France's far-right National Front Party, is now under formal investigation after a possible scandal involving the misuse of European parliament funds.

Le Pen's lawyers have confirmed that she has been summoned by investigating magistrates to testify about the allegations her party claimed millions of euros from the European parliament to pay for her staff, The Guardian reports. French law states that to be placed under formal investigation, there must be "serious or consistent evidence" demonstrating probable involvement in a crime.

An investigation spearheaded by a European parliament watchdog claims that between 2011 and 2012, Le Pen paid National Front party staff with funds meant to pay assistants for legislative tasks. In February, the parliament proclaimed that Le Pen's pay would be docked until she paid the stolen funds back.

On June 18, The National Front garnered only eight of the 577 parliamentary seats, further weakening the party's political power. Le Pen herself was able to gain one seat, however, with many saying that her victory in parliament shows her unconventional politics do have a place in the political establishment, according to The Washington Post.

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"Facing a bloc that represents the interests of the oligarchy, we are the only force of resistance," she said during her victory speech.

Le Pen, 48, also made an unsuccessful bid for presidency in 2017, ultimately losing to current French President Emmanuel Macron. Her politics have been critiqued as being too conservative, as the National Front is anti-EU and anti-open borders, according to the BBC.

But, given the extent of the allegations against her, it's unclear how much political sway she and her party will have in parliament. The European parliament says that Le Pen and 17 other National Front European lawmakers used approximately $5.4 million of parliamentary funding to pay 40 party assistants. The money was meant to be used only to pay those working directly for members of the European Parliament.

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The allegations were first made April 27, at the height of her presidential campaign. At the time, she refused to answer any questions on the matter, saying that she would only cooperate after the final round of voting. 

Le Pen's lawyer confirmed the investigation, saying that she has been summoned by Paris magistrates and "as expected, placed under criminal investigation."

The National Front has denied the allegations and plans to appeal the decision, according to The Guardian. Le Pen herself has called the investigation political "persecution."

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, The Washington Post / Photo Credit: Global Panorama/Flickr, Blandine Le Cain/Flickr, Jackintosh/Wikimedia Commons

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