Fillon rages against left-wing rivals after new allegations
French presidential candidate François Fillon accused the Socialist government yesterday of orchestrating a string of damaging leaks about allegations around his financial affairs in an attempt to scupper his election hopes.
The conservative Republicains candidate made his blistering attack as prosecutors widened an inquiry into whether he had paid his wife for a "fake" parliamentary job and amid reports of alleged financial ties to the Russian government.
Slipping further in polls that already predict he will be knocked out in the first round of voting on April 23, Mr Fillon, who was once in pole position, went on the offensive to lambast weekly "organised leaks" which he said violated the confidentiality of the judicial investigation.
"Who is organising these? State services," he told Franceinfo radio. "And, oddly enough, the Socialist party, Mr Macron and Mr Hollande pounce on these pseudo-revelations," he said, referring to election front-runner Emmanuel Macron and Socialist President François Hollande.
Mr Fillon's electoral star waned after he came under official investigation over claims that his wife, Penelope, and two of their children received more than €800,000 in taxpayers' money for jobs they did not do. Mrs Fillon is due to meet investigating magistrates on March 28.
Her husband was placed under formal investigation - one step short of being charged - on March 14. Judicial sources said yesterday that prosecutors had allowed judges to extend their inquiry to encompass aggravated fraud, forgery and use of forgeries following the recovery of documents during a search at the National Assembly in March.
Pierre Cornut-Gentille, Mrs Fillon's lawyer, denied that any false documents were supplied to justify work and payments between the couple.
'Le Canard Enchainé', the satirical weekly, reported yesterday that a Lebanese billionaire paid a company owned by Mr Fillon $50,000 (€46,000) in 2015 to meet Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Patrick Pouyanne, the CEO of Total. This was dismissed by the Kremlin as "fake news" and Mr Fillon's camp denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Fillon told Franceinfo: "The truth is the left is incapable of winning this election and would only have a chance if there was no adversary from the Right. That will not happen." (© Daily Telegraph London)