French judges ask EU to lift Le Pen’s immunity

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Paris, April 14 (IANS) French investigators have requested the European Parliament to waive the immunity of far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen in a probe over her alleged misuse of European Union funds to pay for party assistants, the media reported on Friday.

According to reports, Paris’s prosecutor’s office launched an investigation in 2015 to look into the EU parliamentary assistants fraudulently paid for their services with EU funds while working for Le Pen’s National Front (FN) party.

In particular, Le Pen’s personal assistant had reportedly received about 340,000 euros ($360,000) of EU money, Europe 1 broadcaster reported.

The request for waiving Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity was filed in the European Parliament in late March.

The National Front leader described the move as “normal”.

“It’s a totally normal procedure, I’m not surprised,” she told France Info radio.

Their request is unlikely to be approved by European lawmakers before the two-round presidential election.

The EU body had demanded her to repay almost €300,000 ($318,000) by January 31.

Le Pen has denounced since the beginning a “political operation”, mounted in particular, according to her, by former European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

Last month, European lawmakers lifted her immunity in a separate case which concerns her tweeting pictures of Islamic State violence.

She is one of the frontrunners in the first round vote to be held on April 23.

Opinion polls show her coming first or second and qualifying for a crucial second round on May 7, said reports.

–IANS

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