(CN) – The European General Court on Wednesday ordered two members of the European Parliament to repay a combined $744,000, money the men improperly used to staff their local offices.
Jean-Marie Le Pen – far-right politician and father of erstwhile French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen – has been a minister in the European Parliament since 1984. In 2016, the parliament determined some $400,000 had been “unduly paid” to him, money Le Pen spent on a single member of staff in his local parliamentary office.
Bruno Gollnisch, a cohort of Le Pen’s in France’s far-right party, has also been a minister in the European Parliament since 1984. Gollnisch got into the same trouble as Le Pen did, and the parliament ordered him to repay about $340,000.
Both men sued, and on Wednesday the European General Court dismissed their actions and upheld the parliament’s orders.
The EU lower court noted the secretary general of the European Parliament has the authority to claw back unduly paid sums when necessary, and that the burden of proof lies with the ministers to show they used the money properly and only to cover actual expenses.
Also, the Luxembourg-based court rejected the ministers’ claims that the parliament unfairly decided the assistants’ role of political activist wasn’t a legitimate parliamentary duty. Rather, the court agreed the ministers hadn’t shown the assistants were doing anything parliament-related at all.
And the general court dismissed the ministers’ claims that they were being targeted because of their far-right views.
Both judgments were only made available in French by press time.