Marine Le Pen has hit back at claims she misspent EU funds
The National Front leader, who is heading the polls in the race to become France’s next president, has launched a court challenge against the repayment demand and claims she is the victim of a politically motivated attack.
Le Pen, who is also an MEP, is alleged to have used Brussels funds to pay party staff during 2011-12 – while EU rules claim only lawmakers’ assistants working within the legislature can receive this funding.
The parliament says it will dock more than £6,000 (€7,000) a month from Le Pen’s EMP salary, bringing her monthly income from the European Parliament down to around £2,500 (€3,000).
But a defiant Le Pen said: "I will not submit to the persecution, a unilateral decision taken by political opponents… without proof and without waiting for a judgement from the court action I have started.”
Get to know Marine Le Pen
Sat, January 28, 2017
Marine Le Pen is a French politician who is the president of the National Front, a national-conservative political party in France and one of its main political forces.
1 of 10
A French politician who is the president of the National Front (FN), a national-conservative political party in France and one of its main political forces.
I will not submit to the persecution, a unilateral decision taken by political opponents… without proof and without waiting for a judgement from the court action I have started
Marine Le Pen
The European Court claim the money in question was used by Le Pen to pay the salary of Catherine Griset, her cabinet chief and close personal friend.
The funds were conditional on Ms Griset spending most of her time in Brussels or Strasbourg, but Brussels claims most of her work was actually undertaken in the National Front headquarters in Paris.
Le Pen has been a longtime critic of the crumbling continental superstate and has vowed to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership if she wins the nation’s general election in May.
Le Pen spoke to representatives of the medical professions in her bid to become France's next leader
She is widely tipped for victory in the first round polls in April, after which she will go up against one other candidate for the final round of voting the following month.
Following recent poll results, her likely rivals are Thatcher admirer Francois Fillon and former economy minister Emmanuel Macron.
Her rival, Francois Fillon, has been embroiled in a row over alleged payments to his wife
It comes following a press report accusing Mr Fillon of employing his wife as a parliamentary assistant on a large salary without doing any work cast a dark shadow over the right-wing candidate.
Director general of Kantar Public, Emmanuel Rivière, told Le Figaro: “Mr Fillon’s popularity has indeed declined since the scandal broke and he is no longer guaranteed a place in the second round run-off.”