Defiant Fillon Reveals He Is Facing Criminal Charges, Will Stay In French Presidential Race

In yet another impromptu press conference delivered moments ago, French presidential contender Francois Fillon addressed the nation, and contrary to expectations the embattled candidate, fighting an escalating corruption probe, would announce he would drop out of the race, Fillon vowed to fight on, even as he revealed that judges planned to charge him with misuse of public funds.

Fillon confirmed that he was summoned to court on March 15 after earlier on Wednesday being questioned by magistrates investigating a 'fake work' scandal involving his wife. The summons prompted Fillon to cancell a campaign appearance at Paris’s farm show, triggering speculation he was preparing to pull out of the race. But at a press conference later in the morning, Fillon angrily denounced the investigation into the jobs affair, saying the probe was a challenge to the democratic process.

Fillon blasted the ongoing judicial inquiry as an attempt of "political assassination" directed at him. Having pleaded not guilty in the case of employment of his family members, Fillon will now have to prove it in court.

"I won't give in, I won't surrender, I won't withdraw, I'll fight to the end," Fillon said ending his speech

Earlier, French media reported that Fillon's presidential campaign director Patrick Stefanini had offered his resignation. There has been no confirmation yet.

Fillon, who was initially one of the pollsters' favorites, saw his ratings drop after the scandal broke out in late January around his wife allegedly having been paid for jobs without exercising her duties. French media also questioned Fillon's children's employment as his parliamentary assistants between 2005 and 2007.

The French financial prosecutor's office launched an official investigation on February, 24 into an allegedly fake employment of Fillon's wife. The investigation is devoted to assignment of state funds, complicity, concealment of offenses and trading in influence.

French presidential elections are due to take place in two rounds on April 23 and May 7.

So far, French assets have reacted mutedly, with the French-German 2Y spread pushing modestly wider.