Le Pen Charged With Misuse of EU Funds in Assistant Pay Case

(Bloomberg) -- Marine Le Pen was charged for misuse of funds Friday after snubbing French judges’ questions about allegations she and other National Front members improperly paid aides with European Union money for jobs related to domestic politics, according to her lawyer.

Le Pen refused to be interrogated and simply made a statement during a face-off with investigative judges, her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, said in a text message. She was then charged in a process known as “mise en examen” triggered when there is serious and consistent evidence showing likely involvement in a case.

The misappropriation of funds charges relate to salary the National Front presidential candidate allegedly paid her chief of staff, Catherine Griset, with EU funds when Le Pen was a European lawmaker, Bosselut said. The FN leader has previously denied wrongdoing.

“In line with a commitment made during the presidential campaign, Le Pen responded favorably today to a summons from investigative judges, who as planned, charged her,” Bosselut said. He will appeal the investigative judges’ decision, which he said is in breach of the principle of separation of powers.

Le Pen faced questioning after a series of dramatic developments amid the presidential campaign, including two police searches at the headquarters of her party. In February, Griset was charged with receiving misappropriated funds. That same month, the FN leader snubbed a non-binding request from the police to question her, saying she refused to cooperate during the campaign that ended in May with the election of Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen won the vote earlier this month in her northern Henin-Beaumont constituency to claim her first-ever national parliamentary post in the 48-year-old’s third attempt. The lifelong politician has served as a European lawmaker and a regional councilor since running in her first campaign in 1998.

Police uncovered evidence during one of their raids that Le Pen was told by the National Front’s treasurer three years ago that her party would have to plug its deficit with European Union money, a person familiar with the matter said in March. Wallerand de Saint Just wrote to Le Pen weeks after the National Front made inroads in the 2014 European Parliament elections to tell her spending was spiraling out of control.

Investigative judges will continue the Le Pen probe. At the end of their work, they will have to decide whether to send the case to trial or dismiss it.