The headquarters of Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National were raided by French police on Monday evening as part of an official investigation into “fake” jobs involving the misuse of European Union funds to pay for a bodyguard and an assistant in Paris.
Brussels investigators claim Le Pen paid her bodyguard, Thierry Légier, more than €41,500 between October and December 2011, by falsely claiming he was an EU parliamentary assistant. She is also accused of paying nearly €298,000 between December 2010 and 2016 to her France-based assistant Catherine Griset.
To qualify as a parliamentary assistant, the person needs to be physically working in one of the European parliament’s three offices in Brussels, Strasbourg or Luxembourg and be resident near that workplace.
The European anti-fraud office (Olaf) has insisted Le Pen, 48, a frontrunner in France’s presidential campaign, repay the money, a total of €340,000. She has refused and is currently having it deducted from her MEP’s salary.
An FN statement claimed Monday’s raids were an attempt to “disturb the smooth running of the presidential campaign and to sink Marine Le Pen at the moment her campaign is making strides with voting intentions”.
French investigators opened a preliminary inquiry for fraud in December following Olaf’s claims and Monday’s raids on the FN officers were part of their search for evidence.
Her refusal to repay the money by the end of January deadline meant her MEP pay will be halved to around €3,000 from this month and most of her allowances and expenses frozen. In total she is expected to lose around €7,000 a month.