Court to rule on former French PM Fillon’s fake job row

09/05/2022

Former French prime minister Francois Fillon will learn Monday whether an appeals court has upheld his conviction for setting his wife up with lucrative fake jobs.

Revelations about the probe torpedoed conservative Fillon’s 2017 presidential campaign, leaving the way clear for centrist Emmanuel Macron — re-elected to a second term last month.

The 68-year-old was convicted by a lower court in 2020 and sentenced to five years in jail, three of them suspended.

At the November appeals hearing, prosecutors said there was clear evidence that Fillon and his stand-in as MP for the Sarthe department, Marc Joulaud, employed Fillon’s wife Penelope in an “intangible” or “tenuous” role as a parliamentary assistant between 1998 and 2013.

On top of jail time and fines, the Fillons and Joulaud were ordered in 2020 to repay more than $1,055,000 to France’s National Assembly lower house.

The court also barred Fillon from holding public office for 10 years, while Penelope  — a serving local councilor — received a two-year ban.

Penelope also had a job as “literary consultant” at the Revue des Deux Mondes magazine owned by Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, described by the prosecution as an “indulgence” for his friend Fillon.

Ladreit de Lacharriere himself pleaded guilty in a 2018 trial in which he acknowledged the job was partially fake.

Prosecutors have called for Fillon to face still harsher punishment in the appeals hearing, including five years’ jail and a fine of $395,000 for the charges of abuse of public funds, collusion and concealing abuse of company assets.

They also want a two-year suspended sentence for Penelope Fillon and a fine of $105,000.

Before the appeals court, the Fillons stuck to their defense that Penelope’s “on-the-ground” work in Sarthe was “immaterial” but very “real.”

Their lawyers attacked the “media frenzy” around “Penelopegate,” as the scandal was dubbed when it emerged.

Neither is expected to attend the court on Monday.

Since withdrawing from politics, Fillon had held jobs on the boards of Russian petrochemicals giant Sibur and hydrocarbons firm Zarubezhneft.

His has quit both posts since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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