French presidential candidate and former prime minister François Fillon [official website, in French] was charged on Tuesday with misuse of public funds after being questioned about whether his relatives, who were on the public payroll as parliamentary aides, actually performed real work. Prosecutors say he was also charged [Bloomberg report] with complicity in the misusing company assets and failure to comply with transparency rules. Fillon denies any wrongdoing and has stated that he believes his opponents are attempting to destroy his candidacy. He also insists [TIME report] that he will stay in the presidential race. Prosecutors began looking into Fillon in January, when it was reported that his wife earned nearly 1 million Euros for a job as a parliamentary assistant, which reports claim she did not do.
Fillon was considered the front-runner in France’s presidential election, but his poll numbers have been affected by controversy. Newspapers reported [TIME report] that Fillon hired two of his children, paying them about 84,000 Euros, although some claim these were not real jobs. There is also additional controversy over work that Fillon’s wife may not have done for a French magazine owned by a billionaire friend of Fillon. Fillon is not only the French politician to be facing legal battles recently. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was ordered [JURIST report] last month to face trial over alleged illegal campaign financing during his 2012 run for re-election. In 2014, anti-corruption investigators [JURIST report] were looking into whether Sarkozy used his political influence to encourage a judge to share information with him about judicial proceedings into his 2007 presidential campaign funding.