Far-right French leader Marine Le Pen charged in European Union funding scandal

Casey Affleck arrives at the 28th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala in Palm Springs Calif. An annual international film festival in the western Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary is

Le Pen has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and claimed the allegations are political "persecution" against her.

Funding the EU Parliament has allocated for assistants to National Front deputies is believed to have gone to fake jobs, and to have been used for party activities inside France instead.

Prosecutors placed French far-right leader Marine Le Pen under formal investigation on Friday as part of a probe into the alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay parliamentary assistants. Griset was charged in February for allegedly receiving money through a breach of trust.

Marine Le Pen has been charged over claims her party illegally claimed millions of Euros from the European Parliament.

Sixteen other National Front representatives in the European Parliament have been under investigation by the French authorities since 2015. Le Pen is president of the far-right National Front party. If the judges send Ms Le Pen to trial at the end of their probe, she could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to €375,000 (S$590,000) if convicted.

Both the Front National and Ms. Le Pen have denied any wrongdoing and when allegations emerged during the second round of the presidential election dismissed them as being politically motivated. Her bodyguard was also questioned but was later released without being placed under investigation.

Le Pen plans to file an urgent demand Monday at the Appeals Court asking that the preliminary charges be annulled due to "the violation of the principle of separation of powers", her lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, said in a statement.

If tried and convicted, Le Pen faces up to three years imprisonment and a fine of up to Euro 375,000 (USD 425,000), although it is unlikely she would receive a custodial sentence.

The formal investigation comes less than two weeks after Le Pen won a seat in the French National Assembly.

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