A former aide to the French far-right presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, has come forward with new allegations on fraudulent party financing.
Gael Nofri was recruited by the National Front (FN) into Ms Le Pen’s presidential campaign team, using a fictitious European Parliament (EP) contract.
It was a way for the FN to avoid declaring campaign spending. The FN is already under investigation for the improper use of EP funds.
Polls suggest that Le Pen is on the way to win the first round of the presidential election in April, but centrist nominee, Emmanuel Macron is gaining and looks likely to beat her in the May runoff vote.
On Sunday, one pollster, the Figaro/LCI put Mr Macron on 50% in the runoff, against Ms Le Pen who stands on 42%.
According to French media, Mr Nofri had signed up to work for Le Pen in September 2011.
“In 2012 I was told: ‘there is a problem, we have to do it via a European Parliament contract’ – I refused,” he said.
Nofri is now a municipal councilor in Nice with the centre-right Republicans party, now having cut all ties with the FN party.
Later in 2012, Nofri had been given a contract to work with the FN accountant Nicolas Crochet, however he “never set foot” in Crochet’s office.
French news website Mediapart confirms that fraud investigators and uncovered evidence of €4,500 (£3,834, $4,763) was paid to Nofri every month from 2012, identifying him as a European Assistant to MEP Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s Father and former FN leader. Nofri stated that: “I was never Jean-Marie Le Pen’s assistant.”
There are currently three FN associates of Marine Le Pen are under French judicial investigation: Catherine Griset, Frederic Chatillon and her bodyguard Thierry Legier.
So far, Le Pen has refused to be questioned by police regarding the allegations of misuse of EU funds – right she has because of parliamentary immunity, however, she has also profusely denied any wrongdoing, citing that the allegations are falsehoods to smear her campaign.
However, Le Pen isn’t the only French politician in the spotlight. Election rival, Republican candidate Francois Fillon, is involved in a separate financial scandal involving payments made to his wife and children.
The European Parliament has alleged that more than €300,000 (£257,000, $321,000) of its funding was misspent by the FN.
On Sunday, Le Pen addressed a campaign rally in western city of Nantes. Just hours later, anti-FN protesters clashed with the police.
An estimated 2,000-3,000 protesters were in attendance, and 12 police officers were injured in the unrest.