François Fillon, former French PM, and wife guilty over fake job

(BBC) – French ex-Prime Minister François Fillon and his Welsh wife have received jail sentences in a fake jobs case.

The conservative politician was found guilty of paying Penelope Fillon €1.156m (£1.06m, $1.3m) for work she never did as a parliamentary aide.

He was sentenced to five years in prison, three of them suspended. She was given a three-year suspended term.

The scandal ruined his presidential bid in 2017. Both have appealed, blocking Fillon’s immediate detention.

The 66-year-old is the most senior French political figure to receive a custodial sentence since the start of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

Coronavirus masks obscured the couple’s expressions as the verdicts were read out.

What happened in court?

Delivering the decision in a Paris courthouse, the presiding judge said: “The payment was disproportionate to the work done. Mrs Fillon was hired for a position that was without use.”

She was found guilty of complicity to embezzle and conceal public funds.

Both were given fines of €375,000 ($423,000). In addition, the couple were ordered to return more than €1m to the National Assembly, which employed Penelope Fillon from 1998 to 2013.

Her husband was also banned from public office for 10 years. The terms matched the prosecutors’ sentence requests.

François and Penelope Fillon’s lawyers insist that the battle is far from lost, and that the appeal will be a new and fairer trial.

They have two big arguments. First that a court of law has no place determining what actually constitutes work on behalf of a politician. You or I might find it venal an MP paying his wife to do what she would probably do anyway for free – but that does not mean it is illegal.

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