Last week we reported that in the aftermath of a report by the Canard Enchaine newspaper, French financial prosecutors had launched an informal probe into possible misuse of public funds by French presidential frontrunner Francois Fillon, who was accused of paying his wife around €500,000 over a period of ten years.
Now one week later, the man who is expected - according to public polls whose reputation over the past year has hit rock bottom - to defeat Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election's runoff round, was hit with a fresh scandal, after a new report by the same satirical newspaper alleged that Fillon got his wife and two of his children jobs that paid nearly 1 million euros.
According to the report, Penelope Fillon worked as his parliamentary aide for longer than he has admitted and was paid 331,000 more euros for the role than it originally reported. In the new Canard report, the candidate's wife was paid more for that job than it wrote in its edition last week, reaching a total of 831,440 euros ($897,456) gross. Additionally, two of Fillon's five children were employed as parliamentary assistants, earning a further 84,000 euros, the report alleged. Le Canard has also written that Penelope Fillon was paid another 100,000 euros for a job at a cultural magazine.
Fillon has denied any wrongdoing and says the work was real. He told TF1 television last week that she was paid from 1997. Le Canard wrote on Tuesday that she was also employed as parliamentary assistant from 1988 to 1990.
Fillon has not confirmed or denied last week's numbers and his team could not immediately be reached for comment on Le Canard's latest report. His British-born wife has not commented at all.
Fillon had said last week that he had also at some point employed two of his grown children when he was a senator but gave no figures. Le Canard wrote on Tuesday that his children were paid a combined 84,000 euros.
With less than three months to go before the first round of voting in France’s 2017 election, on Sunday Fillon promised to withdraw from the race if the preliminary inquiry becomes a formal one, something that has never happened to a major French candidate this late in a presidential contest, in interview with Journal du Dimanche. In the same interview, Fillon said his wife’s pay was registered with parliament and declared to tax service, and added that he has sent proof of payment to investigators.
While Fillon may not be formally charged and thus drop out of the presidential race - a move which would be great boost to Marine Le Pen's victory changes - Fillon is already hurting. According to Bloomberg, a Kantar Sofres poll released Monday in Le Figaro suggests that the scandal has cost Fillon support. About 22 percent of voters now back the Republican for the first round of voting, leaving him just one point ahead of independent Emmanuel Macron and three points behind the National Front’s Marine Le Pen. Before the inquiry, Fillon was considered the favorite to be France’s next president