François Fillon, whose bid for the French presidency was derailed by a fake jobs scandal, is facing further embarrassment after claims that a mystery benefactor paid for nearly €50,000 worth of suits for him in a chic Left Bank shop.
Over the past five years the conservative candidate has received clothes worth €48,500 from Arnys, a made-to-measure clothing outlet for the rich and famous, the 'Journal du Dimanche' claimed.
Of that amount, €35,500 was paid in cash, with a young woman usually bringing the money to the store on Rue de Sèvres, the weekly newspaper alleged.
But two suits bought in February - shortly after the scandal broke over the allegedly fake but very well-paid jobs Mr Fillon arranged for his British wife - were paid for by cheque.
"I paid at the request of François Fillon," the person who signed the cheque told the newspaper. "By the way, without receiving the slightest thanks since then," added the benefactor, who was not identified.
A source in Mr Fillon's election campaign team said the candidate had indeed accepted €12,000 worth of suits this year, but insisted that there was "nothing reprehensible" about it.
"We wonder how far these malicious intrusions into his private life will go," the source said, dismissing as "absurd" the 'Journal du Dimanche' claim that a series of cash payments was made to pay Arnys for the 63-year-old ex-prime minister's clothes.
"No serious store would accept cash payments in such amounts," he said.
Mr Fillon, who for weeks was the frontrunner in the presidential election race but has now fallen back to third place after the fake jobs scandal, has not responded to the newspaper's allegations.
But his spokesman Luc Chatel denounced what he called a "gutter campaign" against the candidate, who polls say is trailing behind independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
"Are they going to check whether his grandmother had a Russian loan, and if he declared it in his assets statement?" Mr Chatel said in an interview with Europe 1 radio station.
Mr Fillon is expected to be formally charged over the alleged embezzlement relating to his wife's job as a parliamentary assistant.
Meanwhile, Mr Fillon's party has apologised for tweeting a caricature of Mr Macron that Mr Fillon himself admitted was anti-Semitic. Mr Fillon's Republicains tweeted an image of Mr Macron with a hooked nose, wearing a top hat and carrying a red sickle with which he was cutting a cigar. It resembled anti-Semitic propaganda from WWII. Mr Macron is not Jewish but the cartoon appeared to refer to his past as a Rothschild investment banker. (© Daily Telegraph London)