French presidential candidate Fillon under fraud investigation

French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was charged with several counts of embezzlement on Tuesday, making him the first major candidate to run for president while under formal criminal investigation.

French conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon said on Wednesday he was "convinced" the justice system would clear his name in a fake jobs case that has dented his chances of being elected.

In February, Fillon said that if judges found enough evidence to formally put him under investigation, he would pull out of the presidential race. It's a considerable step towards a trial but such investigations have been known to be dropped in the past before going to court.

Fillon's presidential campaign has been overshadowed by claims he paid his wife and children thousands of euros in taxpayers money for jobs they did not carry out.

Last month, prosecutors extended the probe and turned it over to investigative judge Serge Tournaire.

Despite the scandal causing a deep rift within his The Republicans party, Fillon has vowed to continue, calling the investigation an attempted "political assassination".

"Those who don't respect the laws of the Republic should not be allowed to run".

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Hundreds of his supporters chanted "Fillon, president".

On Tuesday, Le Parisien newspaper reported that large amounts of the salary paid to Mr Fillon's children were wired back to Mr and Mrs Fillon's bank account.

If Fillon can take some small solace, it's that he is not alone among the candidates in drawing investigators' scrutiny.

In a separate development, French media report that National Front leader Marine Le Pen is now suspected by the country's tax authorities of undervaluing her share of two properties jointly owned with her father Jean Marie Le Pen.

He again brushed the debacle aside on Monday, saying: "In democracy, there is only one thing that matters, it's the will of the people".

Current polls show Macron and Le Pen are likely to reach the second round of the election, while Fillon appears likely to be eliminated in the first round.

  • Sonia Alvarado