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France advances investigation into candidate Francois Fillon over 'fake jobs'

Prosecutors have appointed a judge to handle the case, deepening a probe into the presidential candidate. The former premier has witnessed his prospects for the French presidency dwindle amid corruption allegations.

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French candidate Fillon under investigation

French prosecutors on Friday pushed forward with a probe into presidential candidate Francois Fillon and his British wife Penelope over large sums of cash she received for an alleged position she may not have fulfilled.

Prosecutors appointed a magistrate to investigate the allegations that Penelope Fillon received 830,000 euros ($900,000) as a parliamentary aide over a period of 15 years. However, she has been accused of not having held the job.

Although police had opened a probe into the allegations, the prosecutors' latest decision placed more resources into the investigation, which has dented the French right-of-center politician's presidential hopes.

The magistrate has the ability to further investigate the matter by placing suspects under house arrest or tapping communications.

Fillon, who served as prime minister during Nicholas Sarkozy's presidency, has consistently denied any culpability, saying his wife has the right to meaningful employment.

'No jurisdiction'

Lawyers representing Fillon said they had no doubt investigators would find the couple innocent.

Earlier this month Fillon's lawyers called on prosecutors to drop the investigation, describing it as a probe that "completely tramples democratic principles."

"The financial prosecutor has no jurisdiction and its inquiry is, therefore, illegal," Fillon's lawyer Antonin Levy told reporters.

Since the allegations emerged in an investigative report by the satirical "Le Canard Enchaine," Fillon has witnessed his support drop significantly in the run-up to the presidential elections slated for late April and early May.

An opinion poll by the "JDD" newspaper suggested that 65 percent of respondents wanted the former premier to withdraw from the presidential election.

The latest polls pit right-wing National Front candidate Marie Le Pen and former economy minister in the socialist government Emmanuel Macron against each other in the runoff round.

ls/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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