03:24 - Source: CNN
French presidential election turmoil

Story highlights

Penelope Fillon is being investigated over claims that her husband paid her and their children for work they didn't do

Her husband is under investigation on multiple counts, including embezzlement of public funds

CNN  — 

The wife of French presidential candidate François Fillon has been placed under formal investigation, a judicial source within the magistrate of the French National Financial Prosecutors’ Office told CNN.

Penelope Fillon is being investigated for complicity, concealment and embezzlement of public funds, misuse of public funds, and concealment of aggravated fraud over claims that her husband paid her and their children for work they didn’t do.

François Fillon, 63, is under investigation on multiple counts, including embezzlement of public funds.

Fillon has apologized for the scandal, and has constantly spoken out against what he perceives as “incredible violence which has never been seen in the Fifth Republic.”

Penelope Fillon has also spoken out against those spreading “crazy rumors” while saying her husband would “go on until the end” in his bid for the presidency.

CNN is trying to reach out to the Fillons for more comment.

Penelope Fillon’s attorney, Antonin Levy, said last month that “the fact that Penelope Fillon’s work is real was proven to the investigators.”

Penelope Fillon, the wife of French presidential election candidate François Fillon, leaves her apartment building in Paris on Monday.

François Fillon has rejected ‘fake jobs’ claim

François Fillon has been criticized for failing to quit the race since he became embroiled in the parliamentary scandal over the claims. His scandal-hit campaign suffered another blow this month when he was placed under formal investigation.

Fillon’s problems started when French newspaper Le Canard Enchainé published reports that his wife and two of his adult children earned nearly €1 million ($1.08 million) as parliamentary assistants for the alleged fake jobs.

The candidate has rejected the claims, saying his wife worked for 15 years as his deputy and handled several roles, including managing his schedule and representing him at cultural events. He also said his daughter and son were employed in similar positions for 15 months and six months respectively, which he said is not illegal, but was an “error of judgment.”

He was also forced to apologize for an anti-Semitic tweet sent out by his party this month.

Fillon, a center-right Republican nominee, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron and National Front leader Marine Le Pen are seeking to replace President François Hollande.

French presidential election candidates (left to right) Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Marine Le Pen, Benoit Hamon.

Fillon is not the only candidate facing controversy.

Le Pen, a far-right candidate, is under scrutiny after several staff members were accused by officials of being paid for nonexistent jobs at the European Parliament. Le Pen initially admitted they had been paid while not working, the European Anti-Fraud Office said. She later denied having said so.

Le Pen’s fractious relationship with Europe was further exacerbated when members of the European Parliament voted to rescind her parliamentary immunity over a case involving violent images she posted on Twitter.

An inquiry was opened under a French law banning the distribution of violent images after Le Pen tweeted images of killings by ISIS militants in December 2015.

01:32 - Source: CNN
What to know about Emmanuel Macron

Macron has managed to sidestep a scandal, but he was forced to dismiss allegations of an extramarital affair.

The upcoming election is a test for European populism as far-right, nationalist and euroskeptic parties vie for power in France and Germany.

French voters go to the polls on April 23 but if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election on May 7.

Pierre-Eliott Buet reported from Paris. CNN’s Darran Simon wrote from Atlanta.