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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fictitious jobs: former French Prime Minister François Fillon sentenced to five years in prison

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PARIS | Former French Prime Minister François Fillon was sentenced Monday in Paris to five years in prison, two of which closes in a resounding fictitious job case that derailed his presidential campaign in 2017.

The criminal court, which did not issue a warrant, attached this sentence to a fine of 375,000 euros and a ten year ineligibility sentence.

His wife Penelope was sentenced to three years suspended prison sentence and 375,000 euros (CAN $ 578,000) fine and two years of ineligibility.

The Fillon spouses and their co-defendant Marc Joulaud, the former deputy for François Fillon in the Sarthe department, of which he was a member, were also ordered to reimburse more than one million euros to the National Assembly .

The Fillon spouses have indicated that they are appealing this conviction. “This decision, which is not fair, will be appealed (…), there will be a new trial,” announced to the press Antonin Lévy, the lawyer of François Fillon.

The judgment was pronounced despite requests by the defense to reopen the proceedings, arguing “pressure” on the investigation.

Last week, the defense of the former champion of the right who denounces for three years a “prosecution” investigation, carried out in the middle of the presidential campaign, had asked for the reopening of the trial after statements on “pressures” during the ‘investigation.

On June 10, the former head of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) Éliane Houlette, now retired, was moved before a parliamentary committee of the “very close control” that the General Prosecutor’s Office, its supervisory authority, would have exercised direct, in the conduct of investigations launched during the 2017 presidential campaign.

In France, the prosecution is placed under the authority of political power through the Ministry of Justice, which issues criminal policy instructions to it, but is prohibited from giving them in individual files.

What Ms. Houlette describes, in particular pressing requests for feedback, is not illegal, but has revived accusations of instrumentalization of justice in the Fillon clan.

Given favorite in the presidential election, the cantor of the conservative right had finally been eliminated in the first round, after a campaign undermined by this affair revealed by the weekly Le Canard Enchaîné.

At 66, François Fillon, now retired from politics, has converted to finance.

“Deep feeling of impunity”

On March 10, the PNF had denounced the “deep feeling of impunity” of the one who had “made probity a trademark” and demanded against him five years in prison, including two farms, a fine of 375,000 euros and ten years of ineligibility.

At the heart of the trial were the suspicions of embezzlement of public funds surrounding the jobs of parliamentary collaborator of Penelope Fillon, prosecuted for “fictitious or overvalued services”.

Her activities in Sarthe with her deputy husband and his deputy, deserved to be remunerated under parliamentary assistant contracts?

Between 1998 and 2013, the discreet 64-year-old Welsh woman received a total of 613,000 euros net under contracts known only to a few relatives.

The Fillon, whose lawyers pleaded for release, described tasks which were for the most part oral (being “the eyes and ears” of the deputy, “principal” for mail arriving at their Sarthois mansion …), but essential, according to them, for the career of the politician.

François Fillon strove to explain that the work of a collaborator is all the more varied when the latter is the spouse, a practice that is now prohibited.

The prosecution considers, on the contrary, that the whole is “more the social role of a spouse of an elected official” than a real job of parliamentary assistant, which is therefore “fictitious”.

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