Thursday

19th Apr 2018

Judges refuse to 'let go' of Le Pen's fake jobs case

  • "It will take as long as necessary, but Marine Le Pen will answer the investigators' questions," judiciary sources said. (Photo: European Parliament)

As MEPs start to examine a request to lift Marine Le Pen's parliamentary immunity on Monday (29 May), judges in Paris are trying to tighten the judiciary's noose around the French far-right leader.

"The judges will not be letting go of anything," a judiciary source told EUobserver. "It will take as long as necessary, but Marine Le Pen will answer the investigators' questions".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The European Parliament estimates that the alleged FN fake jobs cost it €5 million. (Photo: European Parliament)

They requested Le Pen's immunity to be lifted after she refused twice, in February and March, to be heard in the probe over alleged fake parliamentary jobs contracts by her National Front (FN) party.

But the procedure will take several months and, in the meantime, Le Pen may have been elected into the French National Assembly – a move that would grant her another form of immunity.

The FN is suspected of having paid party officials with European Parliament money. Around 20 people were employed as parliamentary assistants and registered at the same time as employees at the FN's headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris. Many of them almost never worked in Brussels or Strasbourg.

The EU parliament estimates the damages to be as high as €5 million, according to a letter written by the parliament's legal representative to French judges – seen by the AFP press agency in April.

The institution has already started to recover some €339,000, which was taken from Le Pen's monthly allowance for the undue salaries of two of Le Pen's former assistants – her bodyguard, Thierry Legier, and her chief of cabinet, Catherine Griset.

The Paris prosecutor opened a probe last December for embezzlement, organised fraud, forgery, and undeclared work.

In the ongoing investigation, two former FN parliamentary assistants, including Griset, were charged for breach of trust.

Le Pen, who was a candidate for the presidential elections in April and May, denounced a "persecution by political opponents" and questioned the "impartiality and independence" of "the administration of justice."

Her lawyer said that the immunity request to the EU parliament was "normal", and that Le Pen intended to go to the judges after the French legislative elections on 11 and 18 June.

But the calendar is in Le Pen's favour.

An immunity procedure in the European Parliament takes between four to six months, on average.

Vote after summer

The parliament's legal affairs committee will discuss the case for the first time on Monday, after the procedure was launched by the parliament's president Antonio Tajani on 26 April. They will also examine a request for Marie-Christine Boutonnet, another National Front MEP who refused to be heard by judges over the same fake jobs case.

The rapporteur for the case, Tadeusz Zwiefka, a Polish member of the centre-right EPP group, will present a report based on information provided by the French prosecutor.

Le Pen, according to the procedure, "shall be given an opportunity to be heard" and can be invited twice if she declines the first offer.

The committee, for its part, can ask the French authorities "to provide any information or explanation which [it] deems necessary".

When it thinks it has enough information on the case, the committee will vote on a final report and issue a recommendation to the parliament's plenary, which will then vote on whether to lift Le Pen's immunity.

Contacted by EUobserver, Zwiefka's office said he was not allowed to comment on Le Pen's case, but that the procedure would be treated like any other.

At Monday's meeting, the members of the legal affairs committee will examine immunity requests for seven other MEPs, including Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in an unrelated case.

If Le Pen accepts, she could be heard at the next meeting of the legal affairs committee, mid-June, or in the following one in July.

Depending on whether Le Pen accepts to come, and whether the committee needs more information, the plenary vote could take place in September or October.

Furthermore, the procedure to officially notify the French judges about lifting her immunity could come as another delay in favour of Le Pen.

Other delay

On 2 March, the parliament lifted Le Pen's immunity in another case, where she tweeted pictures of people beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, almost five months after French judges had requested it.

"We are in May, and the parliament has still not officially sent the decision," a judge told EUobserver recently.

According to parliament sources, however, the official notification was sent to the judges through the usual circuit – the permanent representation to the EU of the MEP's country, which sends it on to the foreign affairs ministry.

When MEPs lift Le Pen's immunity and the decision is notified to judges, the far-right leader could still be in a position to dodge the judges' summons.

On 18 May, she announced that she would be a candidate in the June legislative elections. She will run in Henin-Beaumont – a town in northern France that has a National Front mayor and where she received 61.56 percent of the vote in the presidential election's run-off on 7 May.

Nine of the FN's 24 MEPs, including Le Pen and the party's number two, Florian Philippot, are candidates in France, and would have to choose between their EU and their new national mandate if they were to be elected.

If Le Pen becomes a French MP and gets a new, five-year parliamentary immunity, judges say they will still summon her. If she refuses to be heard, they said they will ask the French lower chamber to lift her immunity.

While the alleged scheme to pay party officials started in 2012, it could still take years before Le Pen is taken to a tribunal.

We suggested in the article that Thierry Legier had been charged, as well as Catherine Griset, when it is actually Griset and another former assistant.

French police raid Le Pen's party office

Officers raid the National Front headquarters near Paris over allegations that leader Marine Le Pen used fake EU parliament contracts to pay her personal staff.

Le Pen used 'fake' EU parliament jobs

A leaked EU anti-fraud office report says French far-right leader, Marine Le Pen, had her bodyguard and personal assistant paid by the EU parliament for jobs they did not do.

Richter bleiben an Le Pens Fall zu Scheinbeschäftigungen dran

Während die Europaabgeordneten am Montag begonnen haben einen Antrag zur Aufhebung der parlamentarischen Immunität von Marine Le Pen zu prüfen, versuchen in Paris Richter die Schlinge um die rechtsextreme, französische Anführerin enger zu ziehen.

News in Brief

  1. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  2. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  3. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  4. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  5. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  6. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit
  7. Merkel and Macron meet to finetune eurozone reform plans
  8. Turkey snap elections set for 24 June

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  2. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  3. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  4. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  5. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  7. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  8. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  9. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  12. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies

Latest News

  1. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  2. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists
  3. Getting secret EU trilogue documents: a case study
  4. Selmayr case scars Parliament and Commission
  5. Beyond macho: Turkish-EU ties
  6. 'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole
  7. EU investment bank confirms secrecy of VW fraud report
  8. More commitment to renewables from Council, please

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  2. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism