The European Union General Court yesterday ordered French far right leader Marine Le Pen to repay €41,554 in misused parliamentary assistance funds.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Rally party (formerly the Front National), was found by the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) to have improperly used allowances meant for parliamentary assistance to pay her bodyguard more than €9,000 per month. The European Parliament ordered her to repay €41,554 in January 2017; but Le Pen appealed the decision, alleging OLAF was politically biased and calling for an investigation into what she said was discrimination against her. She also demanded €50,000 as reimbursement of recoverable costs.
Yesterday the European Union General Court ruled that the appeal filed by Marine Le Pen did not have “any proof or judicial basis”; and that she must repay the misspent funds and cover the parliament’s legal costs. Le Pen can still appeal the decision at the European Court of Justice.
In June this year a separate hearing of the court ordered Le Pen to repay €300,000 which had been paid to an assistant, after it was determined that Le Pen had provided insufficient evidence that the assistant performed any “actual work” for her. A number of National Rally MEPs have been found to have used European Parliament funds to pay their staff to carry out work unrelated to the parliament. Mylène Troszczynski was forced to repay €56,554 to the parliament earlier this year, while Marine Le Pen’s father and former Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen had to pay back more than €300,000.
Marine Le Pen has been an active supporter of the gilets jaunes movement, calling yesterday for the dissolution of the French National Assembly, which she called the “only solution”. The National Rally has been accused of encouraging and stoking violence at the protests, which have seen more than 750 injuries and two deaths. Le Pen responded by accusing the government of failing to control violent protesters.