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September 20, 2018
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France: Le Pen and Co. continue to embezzle EU taxpayer money

6.7.2018 15:56
French nationalist right-wing politician Marine Le Pen (left), chair of the Czech Republic's
French nationalist right-wing politician Marine Le Pen (left), chair of the Czech Republic's "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement, Tomio Okamura (center), and the chair of the Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders (right) at the Europe of Nations and Freedom conference in Prague, Czech Republic, 16 December 2017.

The European Parliament (EP) is demanding that French nationalist MEPs return even more money which, according to the EP, has been spent incorrectly. After first discovering expenditures for non-existent assistants, the EP's financial audit has now pointed to expenditures for costly parties featuring champagne fountains, for example.

Agence France-Presse reports that the "National Gathering" (or Rassemblement National, the new name of the former Front National) led by Marine Le Pen owes more than half a million euro to the EP.  The party closely collaborates with the Freedom and Direct Democracy movement (SPD) in the Czech Republic.

Audits of the last two years demonstrate that in 2016 the nationalist MEPs basically got out of hand. Expenses for exquisite banquets worth almost EUR 480 000 were claimed by them as part of the cost of their public service.

One year later, the overall amount of improperly documented expenditures after the initial investigation into the financial management of the ultra-right party is basically lower - "just" EUR 66 000. In 2016 the MEPs especially used funds for a Christmas party to which 140 people were invited at a cost of EUR 13 500.

Additionally, more than 100 Christmas gifts costing more than EUR 100 each were distributed and 230 bottles of champagne were bought, the most expensive of which cost EUR 81. The party was also glad to spend EU taxpayer money at renowned Parisian restaurants where one meal cost, for example, EUR 400.

The EP previously estimated that the former Front National had caused the EU budget overall damages during the previous five years of roughly EUR 5 million. The biggest share of those misspent funds were unauthorized remunerations for non-existing assistants for each MEP.

In mid-June the EU's court confirmed the EP's decision to instruct the head of the French nationalists, Marine Le Pen, to return the amount of almost EUR 300 000 paid to her to cover the cost of allegedly employing an assistant who turns out to have never existed. Le Pen left the EP last year to become an MP in the French National Assembly and has never been able to document that the assistant in question actually performed any work.

ČTK, Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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