Paris (AFP) – French investigators probing an alleged fake jobs scam by the far-right National Front (FN) raided the group’s headquarters outside Paris on Monday, the party said.
The raid is the second in a year by investigators trying to determine whether the FN used European Parliament funds to pay for 20 assistants presented as parliamentary aides while continuing to work for the party elsewhere.
“For the second time, a raid took place at the same offices, over the same allegations, which confirms that the first raid amounted to nothing,” the party said in a statement.
The group accused investigators acting for the Paris prosecutor’s office of a “media operation” designed to disrupt the presidential campaign of FN leader Marine Le Pen.
Le Pen, who has led the anti-EU party since 2011, is a member of the European Parliament which accuses her of defrauding it of nearly 340,000 euros ($362,000).
She is riding high in polls ahead of the two-stage presidential election on April 23 and May 7 election, and has denied the claims, describing the investigation as a vendetta against her.
According to a report by the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF, leaked last week, the parliament paid out 41,554 euros towards a contract for Le Pen’s bodyguard Thierry Legier who was falsely presented as a parliamentary assistant.
The allegations against Le Pen have been drowned out by a fake jobs scandal engulfing her conservative rival Francois Fillon.
Fillon’s campaign has been adrift since it emerged that his wife netted at least 680,000 euros for a suspected fake job as a parliamentary assistant over a period spanning 15 years. He has denied the allegations.
Polls currently show Le Pen winning the first round of the election, but failing to garner the more than 50 percent of voters needed for victory in the second round.