13:52 GMT +319 June 2018
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    Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential candidate of the French centre-right, speaks during a news conference about a fake job scandal at his campaign headquarters in Paris, France. (File)

    Penelopegate Scandal: Fillon Refuses to Respond to Investigating Magistrate

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    French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, summoned for an interview with the investigating magistrate on Tuesday, a day earlier than he was supposed to be, refused to answer any questions, but had a written statement prepared instead, French media reported.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Fillon was called in for questioning over having employed his wife as a parliamentary assistant, a job for which she was paid, allegedly without doing the required work.

    "It is my duty to respond to the summons that I was issued… It is also my duty to come before you today to affirm that yes, I employed my wife and the fact that her work was real is undeniable… The procedural code gives me a choice to respond to your questions, to keep silent or to make a statement. It is the timing of this procedure, in the middle of the presidential campaign, that demands that I choose to make this statement," Fillon wrote in the statement, as quoted by the BFMTV broadcaster.

    Fillon added that extensive evidence existed that his wife Penelope was indeed working by his side.

    "The reality of that work is established, the employment of my wife as a parliamentary aide was not fake and it is not up to the judicial authority to judge quality or content of that work," Fillon wrote.

    According to polls, Fillon's chances in the presidential race have wavered and leader of far-right National Front Marine Le Pen and independent presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron became favorites.

    The first round of the French presidential election is scheduled for April 23, with the run-off set for May 7.


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