French police searched Francois Fillon’s office in parliament on Tuesday, while party leaders are considering his replacement.
Until a week ago, the center-right Presidential candidate was leading the race for April’s elections. Last week, a report by the Canard Enchainé weekly paper claimed that Penelope Fillon, his wife, received the salary of a parliamentary assistant without doing the work from 1988 to 2013.
Initially, the weekly suggested Penelope Fillon had received €500,000; on Tuesday Canard Enchainé suggested the sum could add up little over €900,000 of public money, which includes €84,000 his paid out to his children.
Fillon defends his wife and himself, claiming that he married his aid rather than hired his wife. However, he vowed to resign if he was formally charged.French financial prosecutors have launched a probe into embezzlement and abuse of public funds and moved on Tuesday to search his office in parliament, France 24 reports.
The political effect is already evident. A poll on Sunday suggests Fillon is no longer leading the race and 76% of respondents do not believe in his innocence. French law allows politicians to hire their relatives, provided they offer the services for which they are hired.
Publically, the Républicains stand behind their candidate.
However, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, an MP of the Republicans talked about the need for a “plan B, ” and another pointed out that the scandal will “sicken people who are on the minimum wage or not much more.”
Fillon was campaigning by professing the need to fire one million public servants, while his family is seen benefiting by as much as €1,000,000.