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Marine Le Pen hit by shock probe into 2022 presidential campaign funding

Marine Le Pen hit by shock probe into 2022 presidential campaign funding

Baku, July 9, AZERTAC

The Paris prosecutors’ office opened an investigation into the campaign financing of far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s presidential bid in 2022.

The probe, which follows a preliminary inquiry, was opened last week over suspicions of embezzlement, forgery, fraud and a candidate on an election campaign accepting a loan, the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed to POLITICO.

In 2022, Le Pen — then making her third attempt to win the French presidency as National Rally leader — got 41 percent of the vote in the second round, losing to incumbent President Emmanuel Macron.

The National Rally’s press team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The investigation will now be passed to a judge. It follows a report from the national committee scrutinizing campaign spending (the CNCCFP) which alerted the Paris prosecutor’s office.

“I’m very surprised because our campaign expenses were approved in December 2022 and refunded in February 2023,” said an unnamed official from the National Rally, speaking to AFP.

“We don’t know what it’s about. We found out that an investigation had been opened, like everybody else, on [French television] BFMTV this morning,” he said.

The CNCCFP had already noted irregularities in Le Pen’s 2022 presidential campaign, refusing to refund posters that were plastered on buses, in what was seen as a breach of campaign advertising rules.

According to AFP, Le Pen invested close to €11.5 million in her unsuccessful 2022 presidential campaign.

Le Pen’s 2017 presidential campaign was also fraught with irregularities. The CNCCFP refused to refund loans given by the party and Jean-Marie Le Pen’s micro-party Cotelec towards her campaign, arguing that the interest rates set on these loans was too high.

In September, Le Pen is also set to go on trial along with 24 other people over alleged misuse of EU funds, after a seven-year investigation into allegations that the National Rally used public funds, which were meant for EU parliamentary assistants, to pay party staff.

According to Libération, Le Pen herself faces accusations of embezzlement of public funds and risks a fine and up to 10 years in jail. Significantly, Le Pen risks being disqualified from standing in elections for five years, which would affect her ability to run as a candidate in the next presidential election in 2027.

Le Pen’s National Rally was also fined in 2023 for misuse of company assets, following an investigation into the over-billing of party campaign kits during the 2012 parliamentary election.

On Sunday, Le Pen’s National Rally landed 142 seats in the National Assembly after Macron called a snap legislative election last month. Though the far right now has a much larger group in parliament, their hopes of being able to form a government were dashed.

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