Le Pen's campaign chief accused of 'fake jobs' scam in the latest French election scandal
The French presidential campaign was blighted by fresh corruption allegations yesterday after it emerged that far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen's campaign director was the focus of a preliminary investigation into a fake jobs probe.
Prosecutors in Lille have launched an investigation into whether the FN used funds earmarked for the regional Nord-Pas- de-Calais region to pay party members from 2010-2015, a judicial source confirmed.
Ms Le Pen's campaign chief, David Rachline, is the focus of the probe, according to 'Le Canard Enchaine', the investigative weekly, which carries the story in its edition out today.
Mr Rachline (29), a rising star in Ms Le Pen's anti-immigration and anti-euro party, had been on the payroll of the Lille-based regional council while at the same time being an elected councillor in a region in Provence, about 1,000 to the south, it said.
Prosecutors suspect Ms Le Pen of "preparing the 2012 presidential campaign from the regional council, using local human and material means".
Mr Rachline said the investigation bore the hallmark of "a political attack".
The fake job allegation is the latest in a string of corruption scandals to beset candidates in the two-stage election due to take place on April 23 and May 7.
Polls predict Ms Le Pen could come first in the initial round of the election but would lose by a sizeable margin to independent centrist Emmanuel Macron in the run-off in May.
The former front-runner Francois Fillon, the conservative French presidential candidate, is facing charges over suspicions he used parliamentary funds to pay his wife and two children around €800,000 for "fake jobs".
He has claimed there is an orchestrated campaign to discredit him and denies any wrongdoing. He is now trailing in third place.
News of the Front National probe came just hours ahead of a televised debate by all 11 French presidential rivals last night.
Ten million watched the leading five contenders - Mr Macron, Ms Le Pen, Mr Fillon, Jean-Luc Melenchon, the Communist-backed radical, and Benoit Hamon, the Socialist contender - face off on TV last month.
This time, the six "smaller" rivals would also be there, with each candidate having 17 minutes to talk about three themes: employment, security and their preferred social model. (© Daily Telegraph, London)