Thursday

21st Jun 2018

Fake EU parliament jobs case reaches French left leader

  • Melenchon during the presidential campaign. "I don"t know why they are picking a fight with me." (Photo: Reuters)

Public prosecutors in Paris have opened a preliminary investigation into an alleged use of fake assistants in the European Parliament by French radical-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Prosecutors want to check whether four people employed by Melenchon as "local assistants" with an EU parliament contract, really did have parliamentary activities while also serving as officials at the same time in Melenchon's party, which is now called La France Insoumise (France Unbowed).

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Melenchon was an MEP from 2009 until he was elected into the French lower house last month. He now leads a group of 17 MPs in the National Assembly, the second largest left-wing group. In April, he finished fourth in the first round of the presidential election, with 19.58 percent of the votes.

The investigation against Melenchon, which is preliminary and may not lead to charges, is an extension of a wider case first opened against the far-right National Front (FN) over misuses of EU parliament funds through fake assistant jobs.

FN leader Marine Le Pen, who also left the EU parliament last month after being elected in France, was charged last month for breach of trust. An MEP from FN, Marie-Christine Boutonnet, was also charged for the same reasons.

The case was extended to Melenchon after another FN MEP, Sophie Montel, wrote to the prosecutors on 27 June to signal a potential misuse of EU parliament assistants.

"Jean-Luc Mélenchon presents himself as a white knight, always quick to lecture others … Why would the judiciary not look at his old habits in the European Parliament," Montel told the Parisien newspaper, who revealed the information on Tuesday (18 July).

Last month, another preliminary investigation was opened as part of the same case, against the centrist Modem party, after the first letter by Montel to the prosecutors.

A total of five current and former Modem MEPs are suspected of using some 15 assistants, who were paid by the EU parliament for national party work.

The investigation led to the resignation of three ministers last month: former MEPs Sylvie Goulard and Marielle de Sarnez, as well as the Modem leader, Francois Bayrou.

Following Montel's letters, prosecutors are investigating 19 MEPs or former MEPs - including some from the conservative Republicans party - over the alleged misuse of EU parliament assistants.

Montel openly says that her letters are an act of revenge for the case opened against Le Pen and other party members.

"We continue with our logic to break with the double standards to which the FN has been a victim," she told the Parisien.

Alexis Corbiere, an MP and Melenchon's closest ally, denounced the "FN's poison-pen habits, [which are] a long-standing far-right tradition."

"None of my assistants ever held any political responsibility," Melenchon told journalists on Tuesday. "I don"t know why they are picking a fight with me."

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