Marine Le Pen has not had a good start to 2017.
After admitting that Front National (FN) is scrambling to raise election campaign cash, it was revealed on Wednesday that the far-right political party faces another investigation into how it is paying aides working in the European Parliament (EP).
French newspaper Le Monde said the Paris prosecutor launched a judicial investigation into FN on December 15.
It is examining a “breach of trust,” “concealment of breach of trust,” “organised fraud,” “forgery and use of forged documents,” and “concealed work,” Le Monde said.
In simple terms, this will determine whether aides to FN Members of the European Parliament (MEP) were unduly paid by the EP while working for the party. FN has 20 MEPs.
It follows a similar investigation in 2015, when the EP accused the party of having its MEPs’ assistants take salaries from the EP while working for the party.
Financially, it comes at a bad time for the far-right party. It is struggling to find funding for its presidential campaign, it was reported on Wednesday.
Le Pen has already borrowed about €6 million (£5.1 million) from her estranged father Jean-Marie Le Pen — the founder of the FN whom she threw out of the party. Russia has also started legal proceedings to recover a €9 million loan from the party after the bank it borrowed from had its licence revoked.
“We have additional funding to find. We’ll find it,” Marine Le Pen told Reuters. “It’s half (of what we need), but we’ll find it. We will find one bank somewhere in the world that is willing to lend us that money.”
When asked whether she would turn to Russia again for financial support, Le Pen said she was looking everywhere: “I’m looking everywhere, including in the United States, including in Britain, absolutely everywhere,” she said.
Le Pen and supporters of the FN are accusing French banks of basing their decision not to loan the party money on its politics.
While it is yet unknown what kind of financial ramifications the new investigation into the FN will have on the party’s finances, it is unlikely to help.
The EP is already asking Jean-Marie Le Pen, to pay back €320,000 for the salary of an assistant for whom he cannot provide proof of work for the EP.
Marine Le Pen still needs to pay back €298,000 to the EP, according to Mediapart. This is the equivalent salary paid to Catherine Griset — a parliamentary assistant, and long-time friend of Le Pen, who was at the same time chief of staff for the FN and has an office at the presidential campaign headquarters.
The treasurer of the party has denied any wrongdoing: “We should have started the procedure in France, which will allow us to explain ourselves,” Wallerand de Saint-Just, told Reuters. “We are obviously in front of a detestable entreprise by the European Parliament.” Marine Le Pen has yet to comment on the investigation.
Those are also not the only lawsuits the party is facing. Every campaign (except the senatorial ones) led by the FN since Marine Le Pen took over from her father in 2011 is now being investigated, according to Le Monde.
Ever since Le Pen took the reigns from her father, she has worked hard to moderate the image of her party in order to attract more voters — and has been fairly successful. Polls in general have consistently predicted she would get to the second round of the presidential election before being defeated by François Fillon, the head of right-wing party Les Républicains.
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