The day after Emmanuel Macron's re-election, justice rules a second time in the case that had plagued the campaign for the Elysee Palace of the right-wing candidate, a time favorite but ultimately eliminated in the first round.

François Fillon, 68, and Penelope Fillon, 66, who have contested any fictitious employment since the beginning, will not be present at the delivery of the decision at 1:30 p.m., any more than the former deputy of the first to the post of deputy in the Sarthe, Marc Joulaud, 54, told AFP their lawyers.

Withdrawn from political life, Mr. Fillon announced at the end of February, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to resign from his mandates on the boards of directors of the petrochemical giant Sibur and Zarubezhneft (hydrocarbons).

At first instance, on June 29, 2020, the tenant of Matignon from 2012 to 2017 had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment, including two years' imprisonment, a fine of 375,000 euros and ten years of ineligibility, for embezzlement of public funds, complicity and concealment of misuse of corporate assets.

His wife had been given a three-year suspended sentence, a 375,000 euro fine and two years of ineligibility, and Mr. Joulaud a three-year suspended sentence, a 20,000 euro suspended fine and five years of ineligibility.

The couple immediately appealed and returned to the stand in November, maintaining the same defense in a much less electric atmosphere than at the first trial.

"I was not a fictitious deputy mainly concerned with money", protested François Fillon in an introductory statement, deploring "forty years of (political) commitment erased by an article from a satirical newspaper and a indictment".

The former substitute for François Fillon as a deputy, Marc Joulaud arriving at the Paris courthouse on November 22, 2021 Thomas COEX AFP

"My wife worked alongside me, that's undeniable," he said.

One year firm required

On appeal, the public prosecutor's office requested lower sentences than those imposed by the court.

Against François Fillon, he demanded five years in prison, including one year under an electronic bracelet, as well as a fine of 375,000 euros.

For his Franco-Welsh wife, the public prosecutor asked for a two-year suspended prison sentence as well as a fine of 100,000 euros and for Marc Joulaud a three-year suspended prison sentence.

Ineligibility sentences of ten, two and three years respectively were also requested.

A "bundle of clues" makes it possible to establish the "fictitiousness" of Penelope Fillon's three jobs as parliamentary assistant to her husband and his deputy between 1998 and 2013, paid a total of 612,000 euros net, argued the general attorneys, ironically on "impalpable" or even "evanescent" activities.

For the prosecution, the hiring of Ms. Fillon as a "literary advisor" in 2012-2013 within the Revue des deux mondes (RDDM) was a "job of pure convenience" conceded by Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, owner of the publication and close to François Fillon.

The magistrates, on the other hand, requested a partial condemnation for the collaboration contracts signed by two children of the Fillon with their senator father between 2005 and 2007, and an acquittal for the non-declaration of a loan.

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon and his wife Penelope arriving at the Paris courthouse for the appeal trial in the fictitious jobs case, November 22, 2021 Thomas COEX AFP

The National Assembly requested, as in the first instance, the reimbursement of just over one million euros.

On the contrary, according to the couple, Penelope Fillon carried out "on the ground" in the Sarthe a work certainly "immaterial" but very "real".

Stigmatizing a file which "is reduced" like "a skin of grief", the lawyer of François Fillon, Me Antonin Lévy, pleaded the release, citing "41 certificates (establishing) in a precise and detailed way the contribution of Mrs. Fillon " .

The defendant's lawyers denounced a "media madness" around the "Penelopegate", affirming that if she had certainly been "placardized" within the Revue des deux mondes, she had "worked" there.

The owner of the Revue, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, was sentenced in a "guilty plea" procedure in 2018 for misuse of corporate assets, acknowledging a partly fictitious contract.

© 2022 AFP

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