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France’s ex-PM and Brit wife guilty of £1m scam

Masked
villains:
François
Fillon and
his wife
Penelope
arriving
at court
in Paris
yesterday PICTURE: AP

FORMER French prime minister François Fillon was yesterday found guilty of using €1.1million (£1million) of public funds to pay his wife and children for work they never performed.

Fillon, 66, was sentenced to five years in prison — three of them suspended — and handed a €375,000 (£343,000) fine.

He was also banned from seeking elected office for ten years.

His Welsh-born wife, Penelope, 64, who went to school in Abergavenny, was found guilty of being an accomplice. She was given a three-year suspended sentence and also fined €375,000.

The couple’s lawyers immediately announced they would be appealing, with Fillon allowed to remain free.

The scandal broke in the French media three months before the country’s 2017 presidential election. Fillon had been the front runner but ended up coming third to Emmanuel Macron. However, it was his wife’s role in their political partnership that drew all the attention during the couple’s trial.

She explained how she had supported her husband’s career from when he was first elected as a lawmaker in 1981 in the town of Sablé-sur-Sarthe, in western France.

Over the years, she worked as his assistant — mostly doing reports about local issues, opening mail and helping to prepare speeches. It allowed her to have a flexible schedule and raise their five children, she said.

Downfall of prime candidate: Fillon, with Welsh-born Penelope, was favourite to win 2017 presidential election before ‘fake jobs’ scandal broke PICTURE: EPA

But prosecutors in Paris pointed at the lack of evidence of her work, as her wages reached up to nine times France’s minimum salary.

‘Getting the children from school, going shopping or reading mail isn’t intended to be paid work,’ they said.