The European Parliament has begun a procedure that could lead to the lifting of France's far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's immunity for alleged misuse of EU funds, the president of the legislature said yesterday.
French judges have asked European lawmakers to lift her immunity from prosecution as a member of the EU legislature to allow further investigation into allegations she misused funds to pay for National Front party assistants.
The request "has been forwarded to the legal affairs committee of the European parliament, which is in charge of these issues," Antonio Tajani told lawmakers at the beginning of a formal sitting of the legislature in Brussels.
This step marks the formal beginning of the procedure.
Le Pen has so far refused to attend a police interview over the investigation by police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, citing her status as a Member of European Parliament.
But her head of cabinet has been placed under formal investigation for "the dissemination of violent images."
The eventual lifting of her immunity would concern only the tweets and not the ongoing probe into allegations that Le Pen misused public funds by hiring a fake parliamentary aide.
The case against Le Pen was triggered by a complaint from the European Parliament, which accuses the FN of defrauding it to the tune of some 340,000 euros ($360,000).
The parliament believes the party used funds allotted for parliamentary assistants to pay FN staff for party work in France.
In February, the assembly began withholding part of her pay to recover the money.
Le Pen, who has pledged to put France's EU membership to a referendum if elected, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
She has already had her parliamentary immunity lifted over a separate affair dating to 2015 when she shared graphic pictures of Daesh atrocities on Twitter.
The pictures triggered an investigation for "dissemination of violent images." The funding of three FN campaigns in the past five years has also come under scrutiny.