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Former French PM Francois Fillon facing corruption trial

The scandal surrounding payments to his Welsh-born wife Penelope torpedoed his bid for the presidency.

Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope (Christophe Ena/AP)
Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope (Christophe Ena/AP)

Investigating judges have ordered that former prime minister Francois Fillon and his wife stand trial on corruption charges.

Fillon, who at one point was the front-runner in France’s 2017 presidential race, saw his bid unravel over allegations he paid his wife Penelope, who comes from Wales, and two of their children more than one million euros over many years for jobs as parliamentary aides that involved no sustained work.

A judicial official confirmed a report in Le Monde newspaper that the couple will stand trial.

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Francois Fillon during a press conference at Downing Street (PA)

Fillon has denied wrongdoing, contending the allegations were a smear campaign to undo his presidential bid.

The scandal damaged Fillon’s bid for the presidency and in the end he was eliminated in the first round.

In the deciding round centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, whose campaign to break the traditional left-right divide received a huge boost after Fillon’s problems emerged, won the keys to the Elysee.

Fillon was handed preliminary charges in March 2017, including for misuse of public funds and improper declaration of assets.

His wife, from Abergavenny, was also charged that year with misuse of public funds, receiving money from a misuse of company assets and receiving money from a fraud.

Fillon kept on running for president despite the corruption investigation, which he denounced as “political assassination”.

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The Elysee Palace (Christophe Petit Tesson/Pool/AP)

From the start of 2017, when the investigation began, Fillon had to limit his campaign events to rallies and a few visits under high security to avoid anti-corruption protesters shouting “Fillon in prison!”

Fillon had served five times as a government official under two previous presidents, Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.

In 1981, Fillon was elected to parliament for the first time, representing Sable-sur-Sarthe, a small town in rural western France.

At 27, he was the youngest politician in the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly.

PA

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