Thursday, September 28

French appeal court upholds conviction of François Fillon for embezzlement | Francois Fillon

A French appeal court has upheld the conviction of the former French prime minister François Fillon and his Welsh wife, Penelope, for embezzling public funds in a fake job scandal.

However, the judgment, announced on Monday, reduced the sentences imposed on the couple during their trial almost two years ago; Fillon was given a four-year sentence, three of which were suspended, a fine of €375,000 (£320,000) and a 10-year ban from holding a public position. His wife of him was given a two-year suspended sentence and the same fine. The couple had been allowed to remain free pending the outcome of the appeal.

Revelations that the former MP, who was PM from 2007 to 2012 under the centre-right president Nicolas Sarkozy, had paid his wife more than €800,000 over 15 years for doing little or nothing torpedoed Fillon’s hopes of becoming president in 2017.

In what became known as the “Penelopegate” affair, a court found in 2020 that Ms Fillon had played a nonexistent role in her husband’s work and both were found guilty of embezzling public funds along with Fillon’s real parliamentary assistant Marc Joulaud.

The couple immediately appealed against the judgment and the appeal court heard the case last November.

Fillon, 68, a rightwing conservative, was the favorite in the 2017 presidential race before the fake jobs allegations erupted. He refused to bow out of the election after the embezzlement allegations became public, but was eliminated in the first round. Emmanuel Macron won the second round.

In a 2007 interview Penelope Fillon, 66, née Clarke, from Llanover near Abergavenny, had claimed she was “not his assistant or anything like that”.

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In a scathing verdict at the end of the long 2020 trial, the judge declared that Penelope Fillon’s job was either “fictitious or greatly overstated” and said her husband had eroded trust in France’s political class. The court said Ms Fillon, was paid “the maximum possible” and that the sums were “out of proportion to her activities de ella”.

“Nothing could have justified the remuneration she received,” said Nathalie Gavarino, the leading judge said in sentencing.

Fillon, who has always denied any wrongdoing, has admitted having “made mistakes” but repeatedly said his wife carried out certain assistant duties including opening his mail and proofreading his speeches.

The couple, who were not present for Monday’s appeal court judgment, were also said to have organized fake jobs in the upper parliamentary house, the senate, for two of their five children and another fake job for Penelope at a magazine owned by a friend of her husband.

In the 2020 judgment, the Fillons and Joulaud were ordered to repay parliament more than €1m in misappropriated public funds.

After leaving politics, Fillon joined the board of the Russian state oil company Zarubezhneft in June last year but relinquished his position eight months later after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. He also gave up his position on the board of Russia’s largest petrochemical producer, Sibur, which he joined last December.

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