Friday

22nd Sep 2017

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 and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  2. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  3. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  5. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  6. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  9. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  10. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  11. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  12. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  2. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  3. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package
  4. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  5. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  6. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  7. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  8. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  9. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  10. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change
  11. European Free AllianceSave The Date!! 26.09 - Coppieters Awards To... Carme Forcadell
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Grave Concern Over Rise in Antisemitism in Poland