Suspended in the wake of its opening Monday, the trial of ex-Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope in the case of fictitious job suspicions of Ms. Fillon begins for good Wednesday in Paris with the examination of procedural points.
This long-awaited trial, in which the Fillon spouses and the former deputy of Francois Fillon in the Assembly, Marc Joulaud, risk ten years in prison and heavy fines, had been postponed by 48 hours a few minutes after its opening on Monday.
The criminal court had granted a request for a referral from the defense, which requested this postponement in support of the lawyers’ strike against the reform of their autonomous pension scheme.
Wednesday afternoon, the hearing must begin with the examination of two priority questions of constitutionality (QPC) raised by the defense of the three defendants.
One will be argued by Francois Fillon’s lawyer, the other by that of Penelope Fillon, and the court will have to respond to it before examining the merits of the case.
If the court decides to refer one of these QPCs to the Court of Cassation, the trial will be postponed pending the decision of the high court. Otherwise, it will probably be necessary to wait until Thursday to tackle the first part of the case: the employment of parliamentary assistant which Penelope Fillon benefited from with her husband.
He in a dark suit, face closed, she in a black suit, half-long white hair and glasses, Francois and Penelope Fillon, 65 and 64, arrived Monday under a cloud of cameras.
The right-wing presidential candidate of 2017 had left politics on a humiliating failure on the evening of the first round, after a presidential campaign pulverized by this affair.
Converted into finance, he assures that “the proofs” of the reality of the work of his wife, who was his “first and most important collaborator” in Sarthe, “will be brought”.
Justice had seized the same day of the first revelations of a long series, January 25, 2017 in the Duck chained.
The examining magistrates, after more than two years of investigation, acquired the conviction that Penelope Fillon benefited from “fictitious” jobs as parliamentary assistant to her deputy husband and to his deputy in Sarthe, Marc Joulaud.
– “Discretion” –
Part of the charges of embezzlement, complicity or concealment, which date back to 1981, are time-barred. In the 1998-2013 period alone, more than one million euros of public money was “embezzled”, believe the investigators.
The practice of family jobs, prohibited in the wake of the “Penelopegate”, was then legal and widespread. But the investigators launched on the track of the jobs of Mrs. Fillon hardly found testimonies or archives showing the reality of her activities of parliamentary assistant.
Nor were they convinced by the numerous exhibits tendered by the defense to attest to the work accomplished, nor by the arguments invoking the “discretion” of Penelope Fillon or her essentially oral work.
The defense, which will plead the acquittal, called as witnesses three long-time collaborators of Francois Fillon, including the secretary who follows him since his debut in politics in 1981.
The Fillon are also prosecuted for concealment and complicity in the misuse of corporate property, for the employment of “literary advisor” obtained by Ms. Fillon at the Revue des deux mondes, property of Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere, friend of Francois Fillon, paid 135,000 euros between 2012 and 2013.
A job “of pure convenience, without real consideration” according to the prosecution, for which the billionaire was sentenced for misuse of corporate property at the end of a separate procedure “plead guilty”.
They are also accused of “jobs of convenience” granted to two of their children when Francois Fillon was a senator, and Mr. Fillon for not declaring a loan from Mr. Lacharriere.
The only civil party to the trial, the National Assembly requests more than one million euros in damages if the court considers that the jobs are fictitious.
The trial is scheduled until March 11.