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France

Marine Le Pen must return EU funds, court rules

media Marine Le Pen is the leader of France’s National Rally (RN), some of whose members are accused of misusing funds available to them as Members of European Parliament. Reuters/Eric Gaillard

The European Union can recover more than 41,000 euros of public funds that French far-right leader Marine Le Pen used to pay her bodyguard, the bloc’s second highest court ruled on Wednesday.

The General Court of the European Union upheld a decision by the EU to recover funds that were allegedly misspent during Le Pen’s time as a European lawmaker.

Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Rally (RN), formerly the National Front, paid 41,554 euros to bodyguard Thierry Légier on a three-month part-time contract as a parliamentary assistant in 2011.

Légier is a former paratrooper who also served 20 years as bodyguard to Le Pen’s father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen.

In June, the same court upheld a parliamentary decision to recover close to to 300,000 euros that Marine Le Pen paid to another assistant, Catherine Griset.

In both case, it rejected Le Pen’s requests to reverse the EU orders.

Le Pen signalled she would appeal the decision.

Le Pen, who lost France’s presidential election to Emmanuel Macron in May 2017, was a Member of European Parliament from 2004 to 2017.

EU investigators believe that she and other MEPs from the RN paid aides as parliamentary assistants when they were in reality performing party activities in in France.

French judges called for the confiscation of two million euros from the party in July, as part of the EU inquiry.

The European parliament estimates alleged abuse in the RN cost in seven million euros between 2009 and 2017.

 

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