Police sources say two of French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon's children are now implicated in a payment scandal. Allegations have surfaced that the young lawyers were paid for parliamentary work.
Sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday they were trying to establish whether the embattled conservative candidate paid large sums of money to two of his children.
Fillon has insisted that Marie and Charles Fillon "were lawyers" for "specific assignments" when he was a senator.
However, Marie and Charles were still in law school when they worked for their father, French media reported, and according to "Le Canard Enchaine," a satirical newspaper, they drew paychecks not for assignments but two full-time jobs.
The new revelations are likely to further weaken public support for Fillon, who has already lost ground since the paper first reported on January 25 that the former prime minister had paid his wife Penelope 830,000 euros ($900,000) for work for him that she did not appear to have done.
On Thursday, several MPs from Fillon's own camp urged him to abandon his bid to save the conservatives from defeat.
French prosecutors are seeking to determine whether there are grounds to suspect embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, which could see Fillon formally charged.
The scandal has already thrown open the presidential race that had promised to be a two-horse race between the conservative Fillon and the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.
Former investment banker Emmanuel Macron, who is running as an independent, has since emerged as a serious challenger.
More details to come
Meanwhile, France 2 television said it would air extracts of a 2007 interview with Fillon's British-born wife Penelope, telling British media that she had never worked as his assistant.
Fillon insists the work carried out by his wife was genuine and has refused to quit the race unless placed under formal investigation.
In a party meeting on Wednesday, he urged colleagues to support him for another two weeks.
French voters will decide in a two-round election in April and May who should replace socialist President Francois Hollande, who has said he will not run for a second term.
mm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)