|image screenshot: euronews|
A French court has found former prime minister François Fillon guilty of paying his wife over €1 million in public funds for a "fake job".
Fillon was sentenced to five years in prison - three of which can be served in the community. He will also have to pay a €375,000 fine and will be barred from running in elections for 10 years.
His wife Penelope received a three-year suspended sentence, a €375,000 fine and a two-year election ban.
Their lawyers said they'll appeal the sentence.
Prosecutors had pointed to the lack of actual evidence of her work, including the absence of declarations for any paid vacations or maternity leave. Her wages reached up to nine times France’s minimum salary.
The judicial case was prompted by an investigation of a French satirical weekly, the Canard Enchainé published in January 2017.
The paper alleged Fillon's wife, Penelope, had been his parliamentary assistant for 15 years—except there was no evidence she did any work.
The case ruined Fillon's 2017 presidential bid, at a time when he was widely tipped to result as the winner, paving the way for Emmanuel Macron's election.
He did not even get through the first round of the election in April 2017.
Fillon, 66-year-old, has insisted his wife earned the money honestly, saying "there is not the slightest doubt" about the nature of her wife's collaboration.
During the trial, he also defended hiring his daughter Marie and son Charles as assistants from 2005 to 2007. The salaries received are estimated at over €117,000.
He was indicted in March 2017 for "embezzlement of public funds", "concealment and complicity in the abuse of corporate property" and "breach in reporting obligations to the HATVP (France's high authority for the transparency of civil servants.)"
Fillon had previously served as prime minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right government between 2007 and 2012.