Paris – French Police arrested two senior assistants of Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, for a fraud inquiry in the case of EU “fake jobs”, a police source said.
Le Pen was also put under formal investigation in a probe into the alleged misuse of EU money, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Thierry Legier, who is Le Pen’s bodyguard, and Catherine Griset, her chief of staff, were escorted to the judicial police station in Nanterre, the Paris suburb.
National Front’s (FN) headquarters were raided by police Monday when Le Pen was on a trip abroad as part of the same investigation. The European Parliament and Paris prosecutor’s office are both investigating the case.
Griset and Legier are key figures in an investigation opened following demands by the European Parliament that Le Pen repay money she is accused of wrongly paying the two.
Paris prosecutors have opened a judicial investigation for a variety of corruption charges including breach of trust and organized fraud, all of which carry prison sentences of up to 10 years.
This comes as Francois Fillon, the right-wing Republicans party candidate for the presidency, also faces charges for a fake jobs scandal involving his British-born wife and their two children.
Le Pen contested the allegations and said she was victimized for political reasons. She stressed that the inquiry was an “empty” one, and that she and her FN colleagues were entirely innocent.
“The French can tell the difference between genuine scandals and political dirty-tricks,” Le Pen, told reporters.
Lawyers for Le Pen immediately branded the arrests a media and judicial “conspiracy” aimed at de-railing Le Pen’s campaign.
Despite that, polls on Wednesday put Le Pen in the lead with 26% of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election, ahead of independent Emmanuel Macron and Republican candidate Francois Fillon, each of them getting 19%.
Yet, the polls predict that Le Pen will lose the second round to either of her rivals.
Meanwhile, President of Modem Party (Mouvement Démocrate) François Bayrou offered candidate Emmanuel Macron the formation of an alliance, in a valuable gesture of the former minister. This came as a surprise as many observers thought he would announce his candidacy once again. He had already ran for president three times and came third in 2007.
Speaking at his Modem party headquarters in Paris, Bayrou, 65, said the hour was too grave in France to think of self-interest.
“I have decided to offer Emmanuel Macron an alliance. The danger is too big we must change things,” he said.
Shortly afterwards, Macron confirmed that he had “accepted” the offer describing it as a “turning point in the presidential campaign”.