Francois Fillon’s British wife has been charged over the fake jobs scandal that has engulfed her husband’s French presidential campaign.
Mrs Fillon, 61, has been charged with complicity in the abuse of public funds and over a salary she received from a literary magazine owned by a billionaire friend of her husband.
It is not illegal for French lawmakers to employ family members, but the conservative candidate’s wife is accused of doing little for the £591,000 (€680,000) she was paid over a number of years.
She has also reportedly told police she never set foot in the offices of Revue des Deux Mondes, the magazine owned by Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, which also paid her a salary.
Mr Fillon has already been charged for allegedly employing his wife in fictitious jobs in the scandal, which has become known as “Penelopegate”.
The charges against Mrs Fillon – which carry potential jail terms of up to 10 years and €1m in fines – come less than four weeks before France goes to the polls in a two-stage election on 23 April and 7 May.
Mr Fillon – who once described his wife as a stalwart companion who “has been with me in political life for 30 years … but always in the shadows” – has claimed he is the victim of a “political assassination”.
Investigators last week announced they were also looking at whether the Fillons forged documents to try to justify Penelope’s salary, an allegation angrily rejected by her lawyer Pierre Cornut-Gentille.
Fillon, who has rejected intense pressure to quit the presidential race over the scandal, was once the clear favourite, but opinion polls now show him failing to get past the first round.
If the election were held today, polls show the 7 May runoff would pit far-right leader Marine Le Pen against centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Manuel Valls has said he will vote for Emmanuel Macron rather than the Socialist contender in the election.
Valls, a Socialist himself, said the election was wide-open and he would to do all he could to ensure Ms Le Pen did not win power.
“I’m not going to take any risks,” he told BFMTV.