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  • The conservative right-wing politician served as French prime minister from 2007-2012.

    The conservative right-wing politician served as French prime minister from 2007-2012. | Photo: AFP

Published 29 June 2020
Opinion

François Fillon was given 10 years ineligibility and his wife two.

Convicted of embezzling public funds in a fake job for his wife, former French prime minister Francois Fillon was sentenced to five years in prison, three of them suspended, a Paris court ruled Monday.

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His wife, Penelope Fillon, who was found guilty of conspiracy, was given a suspended three-year sentence. Both were fined 375,000 euros (US$ 423,000). 

Fillon was also given ten years ineligibility and his wife two, the terms matching the prosecutor's sentence requests.

The couple's lawyers declared they would appeal the ruling after the court read it.

A conservative right-wing politician, Fillon served as French prime minister from 2007-2012. In January 2017, as he was campaigning for the presidential election, French newspaper Le Canard Enchaine revealed that Penelope, as Fillon's parliamentary aide, was paid up to 10,000 euros (US$ 10,800) a month for little to no work.

Investigators found that between 1998 and 2013, she received an income of some US$ 1.3m through contracts known only to very close allies of Fillon. Still, there was little documentary evidence of her actual work at the National Assembly, where she was supposed to be employed.

"The payment was disproportionate to the work done. Mrs. Fillon was hired for a position that was without use," the judge said Monday when delivering the decision.

The 66-year-old insisted that his wife had been his most valuable employee and did real work for him in his rural constituency of Sarthe. He denounced what he called a campaign of dirty tricks and denied having done anything illegal, but admitted that he might have made mistakes.

The scandal dubbed "PenelopeGate" plummeted Fillon's presidential bid.

Centrist Emmanuel Macron eventually won the 2017 election against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

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