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French prosecutors alerted over 'undervalued' Le Pen assets

National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen and her father, former party leader Jean-Marie, have been accused of understating their assets. They could face severe fines as well as a ban from holding public office.

France's High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life - a government watchdog in charge of checking the integrity of public figures - has asked prosecutors to examine the assets of far-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen and her father Jean-Marie.

"There is serious doubt about the comprehensiveness, accuracy and sincerity of their declarations owing to the obvious undervaluation of real estate assets," said the government body.

In a statement, the authority said it had "ruled it necessary to alert the financial prosecutor to these facts, which could represent criminal offences."

The announcement came one week after the FN suffered defeat in regional elections.

The Le Pens in the European Parliament

Both Le Pens are required to publicly declare their wealth as they are lawmakers in the European Parliament.

The National Front is the strongest single French party in the European parliament, with 24 of 74 MEP seats taken up by the far-right movement – four more than its nearest rival, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Severe sanctions

The financial body said it estimated both Le Pens had misrepresented their wealth by a third - a figure of about one million euros ($1.1 million) for Jean-Marie and hundreds of thousands of euros for Marine Le Pen. They could face a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($50,000), three years in prison and a ban of up to 10 years from holding public office.

Both have announced that they would appeal the decision before the Council of State, the country's supreme court for administrative justice.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 87, established the party in 1972. His daughter Marine took over leadership of the party in 2011 after Jean-Marie Le Pen's resignation.

ss/jm (AFP, AP)

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