The EU’s anti-fraud body has accused French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and associates of embezzling around €600,000 during their time as MEPs, French website Mediapart said Saturday (16 April), quoting a new report.
The allegations come just over a week before Le Pen goes head-to-head with incumbent Emmanuel Macron in the second round of presidential elections on 24 April.
Her lawyer dismissed the accusations, raising suspicions over the “timing” of the report.
Mediapart published extracts from the new report by OLAF into expenses that political groups can make as part of their mandate as MEPs.
RÉVÉLATIONS @Mediapart publie le rapport qui accuse Marine Le Pen d’avoir détourné près de 140 000 euros d’argent public du Parlement de Strasbourg quand elle était eurodéputée. La justice française est saisie. https://t.co/IzIdpuiJF6
— Edwy Plenel (@edwyplenel) April 16, 2022
The agency accuses Le Pen and others of having used the funds for national political purposes, personal expenses or for services that would benefit commercial companies close to her National Rally party and the far-right parliamentary group, Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF).
The report points the finger at Le Pen and three other former members of the European parliament including her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, her ex-partner Louis Aliot and former far-right MEP Bruno Gollnisch.
The body accuses the four of having embezzled around €600,000, which it recommends they repay.
According to the report, Le Pen personally embezzled around €137,000 worth of public money from the Strasbourg parliament when she was an MEP between 2004 and 2017.
“I’m surprised by the timing of such a strong disclosure” and the “instrumentalisation”, Le Pen’s lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, told AFP.
Bosselut said he was “dismayed by the way that OLAF (European Anti-Fraud Office) is acting”, insisting that some of the report related to “old facts more than ten years old”.
He added that Le Pen “has not been summoned by any French judicial authority” and slammed the failure to send him or Le Pen the final report.
The investigation by OLAF was opened in 2016, Bosselut said, and Le Pen was questioned in writing by post in March 2021.
The Paris public prosecutor’s office confirmed to AFP that it had received the report on 11 March, which it was currently assessing.
Since June 2017, Le Pen is also under investigation on suspicion of having given party members fake jobs as assistants at the European Parliament.
She is accused of “embezzling public funds” and “complicity” in this crime as part of the judicial investigation.