French investigators interview Fillon children in job probe

A French prosecutor's investigation into presidential candidate Francois Fillon's employment of his wife as a parliamentary assistant is illegal, politically motivated and should be dropped, Fillon's lawyer said Thursday.

The investigation dealt a "serious blow to the principle of the separation of powers" between the judiciary and the legislature, lawyer Antonin Levy told a press conference.

Two weeks ago, the satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine broke the so called "Penelope gate" after revealing that his British-born wife Penelope Fillon had been paid 900,000 euros (958,000 USA dollars) for her job as a parliamentary assistant to her husband and at a culture magazine.

Fillon's presidential bid has been thrown into turmoil by the revelations that his wife was paid hundreds of thousands of euros over 15 years for a role she is suspected of not having fulfilled.

The first round of the French presidential elections is slated for April 23, with the run-off scheduled for May 7.

Marine Le Pen and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron are currently leading the polls, with Fillon now in third place.

He also apologized for the ethical "error" he made in hiring his wife and their two children, a practice which he said was no longer acceptable by public opinion.

"The absence of such an offence makes the financial prosecutor's office incompetent to investigate and the investigation is therefore illegal", Levy said.

Politicians are allowed to hire family members as aides in France, although it is frowned on by many voters, but they must do the work they are paid for.

Employing relatives is not prohibited under conflict-of-interest laws in France.

  • Salvatore Jensen