Le Pen Accused of Misusing EU Funds Ahead of French Election Runoff

Prosecutors in France are examining a report by the European Union's fraud agency accusing far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and other members of her party of misusing public funds while serving in the European Parliament.

The investigation was revealed by French investigate news site Mediapart on Saturday and comes less than a week before Le Pen, leader of the National Rally party, faces incumbent Emmanuel Macron in a runoff election on Sunday.

OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud office, submitted the 116-page report to the Paris prosecutor's office last month, according to Mediapart. The prosecutor's office said it is "in the course of analyzing it" on Monday, The Associated Press reported.

According to Mediapart, the report found Le Pen had misappropriated €137,000 ($148,000) of public money. In all, it claimed she and other party members including her father and party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen misused €617,000 ($667,000) while she served in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2017.

None of them are accused of profiting directly, but of claiming EU funds for staff and event expenses.

Marine Le Pen
Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (C) meets with members of the public during a campaign visit to Saint-Pierre-en-Auge, northwestern France, on April 18, 2022. Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP via Getty Images

The fraud office is reportedly seeking to recover the funds and potential fraud and embezzlement charges.

OLAF accused party members of "grave violations" and said the "inappropriate behavior" of members of National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, "imperiled the reputation of the Union's institutions," Mediapart reported.

On Monday, Le Pen described the accusations as "dirty tricks" and questioned the timing of the report.

"The dirty tricks of the European Union a few days before the second round," she told reporters. "I am very used to this and the French are absolutely not fooled."

Le Pen's lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut also denied the accusations and suggested the timing was suspicious. He told Newsweek that neither he nor Le Pen had seen the OLAF report.

The accusations come on top of previous charges that Le Pen allegedly misused EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.

Le Pen's National Rally is seeking to diminish the EU's powers, while Macron is a pro-EU centrist.

Macron is leading Le Pen in opinion polls ahead of Sunday's second round runoff vote and is also favored by bookmakers, although the race has narrowed in recent weeks.

The president also came out on top in the first round of voting on April 10, taking 27.8 percent of the vote followed by Le Pen with 23.1 percent. The pair will take part in a live television debate on Wednesday evening.