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French prosecutors probe Le Pen over 2022 campaign financing

July 9, 2024

Far-right leader Le Pen faces charges of embezzling EU funds during her 2022 presidential election campaign against Emmanuel Macron. She will stand trial this September.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen pictured on April 10, 2022
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen must face the French court later this yearImage: Michel Spingler/AP Photo/picture alliance

French authorities have suspected far-right French leader Marine Le Pen's of illicitly financing her campaign during the 2022 presidential election. The Paris prosecutor's office announced on Tuesday that they opened a preliminary investigation last week

There was no immediate comment by Le Pen on the announcement.

It comes a month after a court fined Le Pen's party €250,000 over excessive invoices for campaign material for candidates in the 2012 National Assembly elections.

What are the charges against Le Pen? 

In early July, a judicial probe began into allegations of Le Pen accepting a financial loan, property misappropriation, fraud, and forgery, the prosecutor's office told the AP news agency.

An investigating judge is handling the case, but details of the alleged offenses were not initially disclosed, the public prosecutor explained.

A 2023 tip-off by regulatory body the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Political Financing triggered the preliminary investigation.

The body is responsible for overseeing and regulating the financial aspects of political campaigns and political party financing in France.

In French elections, candidates are barred from exceeding a certain spending limit.

Le Pen is not the only candidate in the 2022 presidential election singled out by the body, French media reports said.

In the recent snap-elections in France, Le Pen's far-right National Rally unexpectedly came in third place. The leftist coalition New Popular Front came out top, with French President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Ensemble alliance coming in second. 

Macron rolls the dice on his political future

How does election funding work in France?

In France, election campaign expenses are strictly regulated. A responsible commission scrutinizes all candidates' campaign accounts, and a portion of the money spent is reimbursed.

Marine Le Pen invested around €11.5 million ($12.4 million) in her third presidential campaign in 2022. The commission had previously rejected some expenditures, including about €300,000 for campaign advertising on buses. Le Pen lost the 2022 presidential election to Emmanuel Macron in the run-off.

The commission criticized several costs from the 2017 presidential election campaign. It rejected about 870,000 euros that Le Pen had borrowed from a splinter party of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen.

What happens next for Le Pen?

In September, Le Pen and 24 other defendants will stand trial on suspicion of embezzling EU funds. 

Between 2004 and 2016, several assistants of the National Rally, who were supposed to work for members of the European Parliament (MEPs), actually worked for the party and not for the MEP, the prosecution said. Le Pen denies the allegations.

Le Pen, who was reelected as a member of parliament, plans to regain her role as the leader of the National Rally's parliamentary group and is also targeting a fourth presidential campaign in 2027.

French far-right victory could impact EU, NATO

sp/wd (AFP, AP)