Le Pen's headquarters raided by police in EU fraud probe
French police raided the headquarters of Marine Le Pen's Front National (FN) party yesterday as part of an investigation into alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.
The European Parliament has accused Ms Le Pen, a French presidential candidate and MEP, of paying FN party staff with EU funds which it says should only be spent on European parliamentary assistants.
It has demanded Ms Le Pen pay back nearly €340,000 and, faced with her refusal to repay the money, has said it will start docking her salary in order to recover the funds.
The search at the far-right party's headquarters in Nanterre, west of Paris, was confirmed by FN officials, who said it was the second time the offices had been raided. They accused the French judiciary of conducting a political smear campaign. "It looks on the face of it like a media operation whose goal is to disturb the course of the presidential campaign and to seek to harm Marine Le Pen at a time when her candidacy is making an important surge in voter intentions," the FN said in a statement.
A French probe into "abuse of trust" and concealment, as well as "embezzlement in an organised gang", as well as fraud and concealed work was opened on December 15 following a complaint by the EU Parliament.
It came as a poll yesterday showed Ms Le Pen has gained some ground on her main election rivals, independent Emmanuel Macron and conservative François Fillon, but would still lose to either of them in the May 7 run-off for the presidency.
The Opinionway poll of voting intentions had Ms Le Pen easily beating her four main rivals and winning the April 23 first round with a score of 27pc to move through to the two-way run-off against either Mr Macron or Mr Fillon. Against Mr Macron she would go down by 42pc against his 58pc, while against Mr Fillon she would lose with 44pc to his 56pc, the poll showed.