France’s Far-Right Party Convicted of Fraud

Marine Le Pen attends a May Day 2018 meeting, in Nice, France. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

PARIS (AFP) — A criminal court in Paris fined Marine Le Pen’s National Front $21,220 on Tuesday after convicting the far-right party for misuse of assets during the 2012 parliamentary elections.

A European MP for the party, since renamed the National Rally, and a close associate of Le Pen also received jail terms for fraud.

The party was acquitted of taking part in a fraudulent scheme to overcharge candidates for party election leaflets that were refunded by the state. 

The scheme obliged each candidate standing for election for the National Front in 2012 to buy an election kit consisting of campaign material, such as posters and leaflets, from a micro-party linked to the central party. 

The ready-made kit cost $18,814 but an investigation found that the true cost of the material was about $4,500. That was a large profit-margin for the makers, a company called Riwal run by an old friend of Marine Le Pen, Frederic Chatillon, who was handed the 10-month prison sentence.

European MP Jean-Francois Jalkh, legal expert for the party, received six months and a five-year election ban for the part he played in the scheme.

The micro-party was fined $339,000, half of which is suspended.

The French state was claiming $13 million in damages and prosecutors had demanded a fine of $565,000 against Le Pen’s party.

The party was acquitted, as judges said they could find no evidence of “fraudulent maneuvers.”

But the ex-National Front was found guilty of benefitting from fiscal advantages provided by Riwal, such as a loan of several million euros without interest over the course of three years. 

Marine Le Pen has sought to rebrand the French far-right in a bid to attract wider support and is again seen as the main rival to incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 elections.

© Agence France-Presse

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