French prosecutor studying EU anti-fraud agency report on presidential candidate Marine Le Pen | World News

French prosecutors have said they are examining a report by the EU’s anti-fraud agency accusing far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and some of her colleagues of misappropriating thousands of euros’ worth of EU funds.

Ms Le Pen, 53, is a French lawyer and politician who is currently challenging Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2022 French presidential election.

However, opinion polls show that Mr Macron, who has been the president of France since 2017, is edging ahead in the run-off.

On Sunday, the Paris prosecutor’s office announced it was studying a report it received from the EU anti-fraud agency OLAF on 11 March.

The OLAF report claimed that Ms Le Pen had misappropriated €140,000 of public money with members of her National Rally party, diverting €617,000 in total, investigative website Mediapart wrote on Saturday.

A screen shows French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at her election day headquarters in Paris
A screen shows French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen at her election day headquarters in Paris

Ms Le Pen and her colleagues are not accused of profiting directly, but of claiming EU funds for staff and event expenses.

Her office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Commenting on the reports, National Rally president Jordan Bardella told Europe 1 radio: “The French will not be fooled by attempts of the European Union and the European institutions (…) to interfere in the presidential campaign and harm Marine Le Pen.”

He said his party had filed two legal complaints against OLAF, and that it would be filing a third in response to the report.

Ms Le Pen’s lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut told BFM TV that his client denied the charges, adding she had yet to be questioned and neither he nor Le Pen had seen the OLAF report.

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Macron vs Le Pen – What’s different in this French election?

Ms Le Pen has been under investigation since 2017 as part of a probe into the alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay parliamentary assistants.

Pro-European Union centrist Mr Macron won the presidency in 2017 after easily beating Ms Le Pen when voters rallied behind him in the run-off to keep her far-right party out of power.

Last Sunday’s initial vote set up the same second-round battle, though France’s current president is facing a much tougher challenge with both sides desperate to court those who backed far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came third in the 10 April first round with around 22% of the vote.

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