French centrist leader Francois Bayrou cleared of misusing public funds

A French court has found that the centrist MoDem was involved in misusing European Parliament funds to pay for party work in France, but party leader Francois Bayrou was not involved.

The Paris tribunal Monday found Francois Bayrou not guilty of embezzlement, and let off two other of the eleven people on trial.

The eight found guilty were ordered to pay fines, sentenced to prison terms of 10 to 18 months and were banned from serving in public office.

Bayrou’s MoDem party was ordered to pay €350,000, the amount prosecutors say was unlawfully paid to parliamentary assistants between 2005 and 2017.

Those found guilty, including former Justice Minister Michel Mercier, were accused of using money intended to pay for parliamentary assistants to fund party work in France.

Lack of evidence

The court did not find enough evidence showing that Bayrou was aware of the scheme, which he has always denied was in place.

When the investigation was opened in 2017, Bayrou resigned as Justice Minister after only one month in the position.

The MoDem is not the only party accused of misusing European Parliament funds. The hard left France Unbowed (LFI) and far right National Rally are also accused of hiring parliamentary assistants to work on local politics.

An investigation into LFI is underway, though no one has been charged yet.

(with newswires)

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