French investigators interview presidential candidate, wife

PARIS (AP) " Leading French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon and his wife, Penelope, were questioned Monday in an embezzlement probe centered on whether she actually worked while being paid as her husband's parliamentary aide.

Francois Fillon, the candidate of the conservative Republicans party, said in a statement afterward that he and Penelope "provided elements useful for showing the truth so as to establish what work was carried out by Madame Fillon."

He did not comment further.

A source close to the investigation confirmed the questioning earlier Monday but refused to say what was discussed or where the meetings with investigators took place.

France's financial prosecutor opened a preliminary embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds probe of Fillon last week.

The investigation followed a report by Le Canard Enchaine newspaper that Fillon's wife was paid a total of about 500,000 euros ($537,000) for work she did not perform.

Fillon says her job "was real."

It's not illegal for French lawmakers to hire their relatives as long as they are genuinely employed.

The allegations have been a major blow to Fillon, whom polls had favored ahead of the April-May presidential election.

At a campaign rally on Sunday in Paris, where a boisterous crowd gave Penelope Fillon a standing ovation and chanted her name, Fillon said, "We have nothing to hide."

"Through Penelope they are trying to break me," he said. "I will never forgive those who chose to throw us to the wolves."

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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