Former French PM Fillon embezzled public funds, court rules

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Former French prime minister Francois Fillon, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for the verdict in his trial over a fake jobs scandal at the courthouse in Paris, France, June 29, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) – A French court on Monday found former Prime Minister Francois Fillon guilty of embezzlement of public funds in a fake jobs scandal that wrecked his 2017 run for president and opened the Elysee Palace door for Emmanuel Macron.

Fillon’s bid for the presidency unravelled after allegations surfaced that he had paid his British-born wife Penelope hundreds of thousands of euros for doing little, if any, work as his parliamentary assistant.

“The payment was disproportionate to the work done,” the chief judge said, reading the court’s ruling. “Mrs. Fillon was hired for a position that was without use.”

A consummate political insider who was prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, Fillon had been the frontrunner in the election race when the allegations surfaced. At the time, he denied wrongdoing, resisted party pressure to pull his candidacy, and was eliminated in the first round of the vote.

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The court also convicted Fillon’s wife of complicity to embezzle and conceal of public money.

The court is due to hand down a sentence shortly.

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