French Front National party offices Paris were raided by police on Wednesday due to an accusation that the party was using money it receives from the European Union (EU) to employ assistants. Le Pen and others in her party who serve as Members of the European Parliament are entitled to EU finding for various expenses. It is not clear how these assistants are alleged to have violated current EU expense regulations.
Founder of the National Front and father of Marine Le Pen, Jean Marie Le Pen (also an MEP) also had his house raided by French authorities as well as the office of his accountant and personal secretary. Jean Marie had a falling out with Marine in August of 2015 and was expelled from the party after a special congress ruled that he no longer represented their cause due to his often controversial comments. Authorities did mention that the case was opened at the beginning of 2015 when Jean Marie was still with the party which would explain his inclusion in the raids.
The core of the investigations revolves around 20 party assistants that are officially listed as working in Strasbourg, but who French authorities claim work there in name only and are actually working on projects cross France. The accusation would be a violation of EU expense rules as the money allocated to MEPs for assistants is meant for EU work only.
The Front National rebuked the charges and the raid calling it “politically motivated”, issuing a statement on the matter Wednesday saying the French government tries to, “hinder, spy on, and intimidate the patriotic opposition.”
The press release, posted to the Front National Facebook page, calls the raid a “pathetic case” and puts the blame squarely on Martin Schulz, President of the European parliament who has bullied other European politicians in the past like Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban when he summoned him along with other EU leaders, and tried to force Hungary to take in more migrants.
Also mentioned in the statement is the “lack of evidence” for the case and the party questions why such an “incredible deployment of resources” has been committed to it. They say that the investigation and accusations go against the freedom of any individual to associate or act in any political manner they wish regardless of what their job is or where the money is coming from.
The raid also comes at a very crucial time for the German government especially as there are elections set to be held regionally next month in which the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who share many of the same stances and positions of the FN, are seeing huge gains in opinion polls and have as much as 17 per cent of the vote in some areas of Germany and have also seen their party offices attacked.