A few days before the second round of the French presidential election, the candidate of the Rassemblement National Marine Le Pen has been accused of embezzlement of public funds.
Marine Le Pen and some of her close associates are accused of having embezzled around €600,000 of European public money during their terms as MEPs, according to a report made public on Saturday, April 16th. The accusation comes from the European Anti-Fraud Office. The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed that it had received the report on March 11th and that since its discovery, it was being analysed.
The party of the candidate who will face Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, April 24th, retaliated by underlining the extremely dubious nature of the timing. The Office investigation has been open since 2016, and Le Pen was only questioned by mail in respect to this allegation a year ago, in March of 2021.
The release of the report in the press comes at an ideal time to destabilise the candidate, with some of the facts mentioned by the European Office dating back more than ten years. Moreover, the Office disclosed this information without any contradictory investigation, as pointed out by Rodolphe Bosselut, lawyer for the Rassemblement National, for whom the political instrumentalization of the facts is not in doubt. “It is an office against which we have filed two complaints,” and there will “obviously be a third complaint,” said the president of the Rassemblement National Jordan Bardella on CNews.
The European Parliament has announced that it wants to recover the sums unduly paid, which would have been used to finance national political operations or personal expenses through the MEPs of the Rassemblement National. In a personal capacity, Marine Le Pen is said to have embezzled around €137,000 of public money from the Strasbourg Parliament when she was an MEP between 2004 and 2017. The report also names Bruno Gollnisch for €43,257, the political group Europe of Nations and Liberties (ENL) for €131,089, and Marine Le Pen’s former companion Louis Aliot for €2,493.22.
Candidate Emmanuel Macron is also in the crosshairs of several politico-financial scandals, the most important of which is the scandal linked to the use of consultancy firms, known as #McKinseyGate. The amounts involved are in the billions. The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation for money laundering aggravated by tax fraud, but the press has remained generally silent on the subject since the first round of the election, and the investigation has not made any significant progress.
Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).