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French prosecutors open inquiry into presidential favorite Fillon's public pay to wife

After years of avoiding scandal, Francois Fillon is now facing allegations he paid his wife for a post she did not actually hold. The conservative presidential candidate has dismissed the report as simple mudslinging.

French prosecutors confirmed on Wednesday that they had opened a preliminary investigation into the wife of conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon. Penelope Fillon is facing scrutiny after it emerged that she earned half a million euros ($536,000) while working for her husband and then his successor as a parliamentary aid over a period of eight years.

Fillon, widely considered the favorite ahead of April's first round presidential vote, has had to field relatively little scandal since he won the Les Republicains party primary at the end of November. As rooting out corruption has become central to his platform, he was quick to decry the allegations as nothing more than a smear campaign.

"I am scandalized by the contempt and misogyny of the report," said Fillon, referring to newspaper Le Canard Enchaine, which was the first outlet to publish the details of his wife's salary. "Just because she is my wife she did not have the right to work?"

According to the media allegations, Welsh-born Penelope Fillon earned a substantial salary while working for her husband when he was a member of parliament from 1998-2002, and then kept her post with his former deputy Marc Jouland when Francois Fillon became a minister.

Media: Penelope Fillon never actually worked in parliament

While there is nothing illegal about hiring a family member for certain positions, Le Canard Enchaine alleged, however, that Fillon never actually worked in government. In its report, the paper cited sources who worked in parliament saying that they had never seen her in the building. It further quoted a 2007 article in which Penelope Fillon said her job was to be a mother to her five children at their home in the Sarthe region. The presidential candidate himself has said similar things to that affect.

Bernard Accoyer, the secretary general of Les Republicains, scoffed at the allegations in comments to the news outlet France Inter. "Francois Fillon has always worked with Penelope Fillon. I have seen her participate in his work. I have seen her at the National Assembly," he said.

es/msh (AFP, dpa)

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