National Front faces formal embezzlement probe
National Front treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just announced the procedure against the party after he was questioned for several hours by financial investigators in Paris. Being placed under formal investigation means that investigators have serious reasons to suspect wrongdoing. It can but does not always lead to an indictment on formal charges.
While it may not lead to indictment, the investigation will add to official scrutiny of the National Front’s strained finances.
The anti-EU, anti-immigration party has struggled to raise enough funds to finance its election campaigns and had to resort to a €9.4 million-loan last year from a Russian-backed bank to keep its organization afloat.
It still needs to find up to €30 million more to finance regional and presidential election campaigns coming up in December, 2015, and May, 2017, respectively.
Investigating magistrates, who have already placed six other people including National Front vice president Jean-Francois Jalkh under formal investigation in the same case, are examining whether the Front used two affiliated companies to embezzle election funds from the state.
Investigators suspect that the two firms affiliated to the National Front defrauded public elections officials on the amount of money they were owed as reimbursement for campaign costs. Under the alleged scheme, one of the firms overcharged election candidates for campaign kits it sold them that included posters and pamphlets.
Marine Le Pen herself has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The specific accusations levied against the Front are “misuse of public assets” and “complicity in embezzlement.”
In a statement, the National Front said the Paris court handling the affair had no proof to support its claims.
The Front “will lodge an appeal against this formal investigation procedure in the coming days,” it added.