French court reduces seizure of Le Pen’s party funding
PARIS (AP) — A French court decided on Wednesday to release half of the 2 million euros ($2.35 million) in state funding to Marine Le Pen’s far-right party that had been withheld during an ongoing investigation into alleged misuse of EU funds.
The Paris appeals court unblocked the money after Le Pen appealed the judges’ decision and said it was essential for the party to meet its running costs, notably salaries and rent.
Political parties in France are entitled to state money depending on their election results and how many seats they hold in parliament.
Judges had initially decided this summer to withhold 2 million euros, nearly half of the 4.5 million euros the National Rally — formerly known as the National Front — was allocated for 2018.
Le Pen denies any wrongdoing and her party said in a statement it will appeal the decision with the aim of getting the rest of the money released.
“This is a first victory,” Le Pen lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut said after the hearing. “We believe this seizure is illegal and absolutely unjustified,” he said.
Earlier this year, a top European Union court ruled that Le Pen had to return 300,000 euros to the European Parliament. The case dates back to Le Pen’s time representing the National Front in the EU parliament from 2009-2017.
An investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office concluded that funds meant to pay a parliamentary assistant were “unduly paid” to a National Front assistant instead. Le Pen appealed the ruling, denying that the money had been misdirected.
The General Court of the EU dismissed Le Pen’s appeal, saying “she did not prove the effectiveness of that assistant’s work.”
“This (French decision) clearly demonstrates that the initial seizure did not correspond to the prejudice brought up by the European Parliament,” Bosselut said.