The Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office said on September 22 that Marine Le Pen and 26 people affiliated with her Rassemblement National Party should stand trial over alleged misuse of European Union funds.
The prosecutor wants to charge the party and people connected with it, including Marine and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the mayor of Perpignan Louis Aliot and the party’s former second-in-command Bruno Gollnisch, whom it accuses of having embezzled European public funds between 2004 and 2016.
Rassemblement National (RN) and those involved in this case are accused of having used European money to pay employees of the party who worked only for the party but had nothing to do with Europe per se.
Stressing that “the penalties imposed are 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to €1 million or double the proceeds of the crime”, the prosecutor’s office reiterated that “the legislature has made mandatory the additional penalty of deprivation of the right to stand for election, for a maximum period of five years, or 10 years for an elected person or member of the government”.
The European Parliament had estimated in 2018 that funds totalling €6.8 million had been misused from 2009 to 2017.
Marine Le Pen has always denied any wrongdoing in the case, as have the other accused.
“We dispute this vision that appears incorrect to us in relation to the work of opposition representatives and their assistants, work that is primarily political,” responded Le Pen’s representatives.
“We will present our arguments in depth in court,” they added, arguing that “strangely, this type of decision is consistently and conveniently made during an election period”.
A source within the European Parliament told Brussels Signal the case against RN seemed to be a “political persecution” and “an instrumentalisation of justice”.
The source further noted that the ID Group is not allowed into the Bureau of the European Parliament, an elected organ that handles matters relating to the budget, administration, organisation and staff. That means the ID Group has no oversight, the source said, adding: “They keep ID out and apply the rules as they see fit.”
Judges will have to decide whether to accept the prosecutor’s office petition for trial. Despite claiming innocence, the RN may dread a French court appearance after the State Council decided on September 22 that it can be named a “far-right party”.
The RN went to court after the Ministry of Internal Affairs had labelled the party as such in state documents. RN said that violated the principle of equality and “highlights a difference in treatment between political movements”.
It added it was “tainted by a manifest error of assessment with regard to the classification adopted by the Rassemblement National”.
But the judge ruled that “none of the grounds raised, raised a serious doubt about the legality of the contested document”.