Le Pen’s National Front ‘took 5m euros from EU’
The far-right National Front (FN) of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen may have defrauded the European Parliament of about €5m (£4m; $5.4m), EU sources say.
It is more than twice the sum initially estimated in an inquiry into FN staff.
The parliament suspects the money went to FN assistants who were not really working for MEPs, but were engaged in FN party work in France.
The allegations – denied by the FN – have now gone to French investigators.
Ms Le Pen is campaigning for the second-round vote in the presidential election on 7 May. Her rival, liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron, is ahead of her in opinion polls.
The alleged fraudulent payments – from 2012 onwards – concern her and several other FN MEPs. The FN is highly critical of the EU, rejecting its liberal, free market agenda.
Ms Le Pen says she is the victim of a politically motivated vendetta.
The European Parliament is currently withholding half of Ms Le Pen’s salary and expenses, as it tries to recoup money it says she owes.
Currently the FN has 24 MEPs, France’s biggest contingent.
Ms Le Pen has refused to answer a summons over the affair in France, citing her immunity as an MEP.
The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says most voters drawn to the FN are already highly suspicious of the EU, and may not see the alleged fraud as a particularly serious matter