Far-right French lawmaker Marine Le Pen was formally charged Friday over allegations she misused European Parliament funds to pay staff members of her far-right political party, the National Front (FN).
The “breach of trust” charges, which were announced by Le Pen’s lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, concern allegations raised by the European parliament that Le Pen defrauded the EU legislative body by illicitly using funding earmarked for parliamentary assistants to pay FN staff instead. The case concerns 16 other FN members and the salaries of over 40 parliamentary assistants between 2012 and 2017. In total, the European parliament estimates the FN defrauded it of nearly 5 million euros ($5,700,000).
In February, the European parliament threatened to begin docking Le Pen’s salary if she didn’t pay the money back. But Le Pen said she refused to “submit to persecution” and denied the allegations, which her lawyers condemned as a politically motivated attempt to harm her presidential bid “at the very moment when her candidacy is making a major breakthrough.” Indeed, Le Pen bested establishment candidates on the left and the right when she advanced to the second round of the presidential election, only to lose to her independent challenger and the current president, Emmanuel Macron, in the run-off.