A Paris court has sentenced former French prime minister Francois Fillon to five years in prison.
Monday’s verdict comes three years after Fillon was accused of using public funds to pay his wife Penelope to work a fake job. She was also found guilty and was handed a three-year suspended sentence for being an accomplice in the fraud that brought the family more than €1 million since 1998.
The court fined each of them €375,000 and barred Francois from standing in any election for the next 10 years.
The couple has denied any wrongdoing. Their lawyers immediately appealed the verdict.
Prosecutors pointed at the lack of evidence of Penelope’s work, including the absence of declarations for any paid vacations or maternity leave, as her wages reached up to nine times France’s minimum salary.
They argued that “meeting with voters, getting the children from school, going shopping or reading mail isn’t intended to be paid work”.
The scandal broke in the French media just three months before the country’s 2017 presidential election. Fillon was the front-runner in the race, but sank to third place in the election, which was won by Emmanuel Macron.