The mystery benefactor who bought two bespoke suits for scandal-plagued French presidential candidate François Fillon in February was named on Friday as well-known lawyer Robert Bourgi, a judicial source said, confirming a report in daily Le Monde.
The Senegal-born Bourgi (pictures above), a confidant and adviser of African presidents and conservative French politicians over decades, paid 13,000 euros ($14,000) for the apparel from exclusive Left Bank tailor Arnys.
He was quoted by BFM TV as saying the suits were a gift and that he expected nothing in return.
Fillon is set to be confirmed as the conservative candidate in France’s presidential election on Friday, despite dismal polling numbers, as the window for putting an alternative name on the ballot closed. Fillon’s main rival for his party’s ticket, Alain Juppé, opted not to challenge him.
The former prime minister has fought off pressure from his own Party, Les Républicains [formerly UMP], to step aside before Friday’s deadline when all presidential candidates must be formally endorsed by at least 500 elected officials.
The fraud investigation widened on Thursday to include luxury suits he received as gifts. He is already under formal investigation on suspicion of misusing public funds linked to salaries he paid his wife and children.
Once the frontrunner, Fillon has slipped behind far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and centrist Emmanuel Macron in the polls, a position that would eliminate him in the first round of the election on April 23.
This French presidential elections is turning into one of the most unpredictable in the country’s history.
Fillon, 63, has insisted he will fight on despite an Odoxa opinion poll on Friday showing that three-quarters of French voters want him to pull out of the race.
A weekly Ipsos SopraSteria poll for respected French newspaper Le Monde on Friday showed Fillon losing even more ground to Le Pen and Macron.
The polls point to a May 7 run-off between Le Pen and Macron, with the latter convincingly winning that duel.
Fillon has noticeably begun to use more right-wing language, borrowing phrases from the far-right National Front in an attempt to appeal to its voters.
“I loathe all kinds of racism, including anti-French racism,” Fillon surprisingly said in a speech on Thursday night, using a phrase made popular by the controversial National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of the party’s current leader.
Fillon, Le Pen, Macron, Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon and two lesser-known candidates have already reached the critical 500 elected officials endorsement target.
Another four at least could also reach the goal when the Constitutional Council publishes its final sponsors list.
The Constitutional Council will confirm the candidates on Saturday.