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Ex-French PM and wife to appeal guilty sentence

Ex-French Prime Minister François Fillon and his wife Penelope, who was born in Wales, were found guilty of embezzling over €1 million of public funds yesterday (June 29). They will appeal the ruling.

The couple, along with former MP for their constituency Marc Joulaud, were taken to court over a fake jobs scandal. 

They are accused of paying Mrs Fillon and two of the five Fillon children for work as “parliamentary assistants” while Mr Fillon was prime minister.

According to the trial verdict the contracts were for bogus jobs and the Fillon family members were paid over €1 million of public funds for work they did not do.

Penelope Fillion paid for 'unneeded' work

Penelope Fillon, née Clarke, was raised in Abergavenny, South Wales, where she is known locally as “Penny”. She met Mr Fillon during a year abroad in Le Mans (Pays de la Loire) and, after completing a law degree, moved to France. She is now a naturalised French citizen.

Mrs Fillon was found to have signed three contracts as a parliamentary assistant for her husband and Mr Joulaud between 1998 and 2013.

Judge Nathalie Gavarino found the contracts had “no consistency” and that there was “no need” for the work Mrs Fillion was supposedly doing for over a decade.

Judge Gavarino said: “Nothing could justify the remuneration [Mrs Fillion] received."

After serving as French prime minister while Nicolas Sarkozy was president, Mr Fillon ran in the 2016 presidential race, which was later won by current President Emmanuel Macron. It was during this race that the fake jobs scandal emerged.

The judge at the trial said the illegal actions of which Mr Fillion was accused had “contributed to the erosion of confidence” in politicians in France.

Read more: Politicians’ brushes with law are no badge of honour

Read more: MPs vote to clean up politics

Guilty of misusing over €1 million

The court estimated the three accused had misused public funds amounting to nearly €1,156,000. It was ruled that Mr and Mrs Fillon, and Mr Joulaud, will have to pay back almost €1 million to the Assemblée Nationale.

However, the couple have always denied the accusations, and announced that they would appeal the “guilty” verdict immediately. 

Antonin Lévy, Mr Fillon’s lawyer, called the verdict “unfair” and said the appeal would call for a new trial.

Mrs Fillon’s lawyer denounced the “severity” of the punishment given to his client.

Punishments for all three accused

Mr Fillon, 66, was sentenced to five years in jail, with three suspended, and ordered to pay a €375,000 fine. He was barred from holding public office for ten years. 

Mrs Fillon was given a three-year suspended sentence. She was also barred from holding public office for two years, even though she has just been re-elected as a municipal councillor in Solesmes (Sarthe, Pays de la Loire). 

Mr Joulaud became MP for Mr Fillon’s constituency in Solesmes when the latter became prime minister. During this time, he also hired Mrs Fillon as a parliamentary assistant. Mr Joulaud was given a three-year suspended sentence, a fine of €20,000 and is barred from holding public office for five years. 

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