French pres candidate Fillon placed under formal investigation over fraud accusations

Francois Fillon was placed under formal investigation on Tuesday over allegations he misappropriated government funds, Reuters reports.

The news was reported by Le Canard Enchaine and RTL, which claimed the charges were related to suspicious activity that would have benefited his wife Penelope.

A source told France’s 20 Minutes outlet that the center-right French presidential candidate was charged with the embezzlement of public funds, the breaching of reporting obligations to the High Authority for transparency in public life (HATVP), an anti-corruption body, and the concealment and complicity in the abuse of power.

“He was charged this morning. The hearing was brought forward so that it could take place in a calm manner,” his lawyer Antonin Levy told AFP. Fillon’s lawyers have yet to comment on the developments.

Fillon had been expected to meet with judges on Wednesday over fraud accusations relating to undeclared funds. A report last month by Le Canard Enchaine accused his wife Penelope of earning €500,000 in parliamentary funds for work she did not do.

READ MORE: French pres. hopeful Fillon faces fraud accusations for not declaring billionaire’s €50K loan

Earlier in March, Fillion said that he would remain in the race even if formally charged, leading to the resignation of key advisor Bruno Le Maire from the campaign. Le Maire said the candidate was breaking a pledge to withdraw from the race if charged.

Fillon has denied all allegations and refused to step down from the presidential race. Earlier in the month he branded those who demanded his withdrawal “traitors” but sounded apologetic over the scandals.

Prior to the revelations in January Fillon was polling a close second to National Front candidate Marine Le Pen but has since fallen behind center-left contender Emmanuel Macron.

Under French law being put under formal investigation means there is “serious or consistent evidence” of probable involvement in a crime, according to Reuters. It’s a considerable step towards a trial but such investigations have been known to be dropped in the past before going to court.