July 22, 2024

After a seven-year investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office requested on Friday that Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, and more than 20 other members of her National Rally party stand trial for embezzlement of funds from the European Parliament between 2004 and 2016.

The case has centered on whether party members who were representatives in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, along with their assistants, used money allocated to cover expenses at the assembly for party costs that had nothing to do with their parliamentary functions.

The request from the prosecutor’s office does not mean the case will go to trial. That decision will be made by Paris magistrates, probably within the next several weeks. Ms. Le Pen faces a possible 10-year prison sentence, a fine of one million euros ($1.1 million) and 10 years of ineligibility for public office, the prosecutor’s office said.

The decision comes as the jostling begins over a successor to President Emmanuel Macron, who must leave office under term limits in 2027, and nine months before European Parliament elections. It is a blow to Ms. Le Pen, a perennial candidate for the presidency who has increased her vote share but has always fallen short.

“We dispute this position which seems to represent an erroneous understanding of the work of opposition lawmakers and their assistants, which is above all a political one,” the party said in a statement. It did not elaborate.

Among those facing possible trial were Ms. Le Pen’s 95-year-old father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the party originally called the National Front. The party’s virulent anti-immigrant and initially antisemitic message has gradually been moderated over the past decades.

The National Rally, as the party is now known, has 88 elected representatives in the French National Assembly. Its passage into the political mainstream, despite its still xenophobic message, was effectively consecrated this month when Mr. Macron included the party for the first time in a meeting with representatives from all political groups in Parliament.

Ms. Le Pen’s party program for the 2022 presidential election called for the elimination of any policy that would lead to “the installation of a number of foreigners on the national territory of such a nature as to modify the composition and identity of the French people.”

The 11 former or current representatives to the European Parliament facing charges include Louis Aliot, the mayor of the southwestern city of Perpignan; Wallerand de Saint-Just, the former party treasurer; and Bruno Gollnisch, now the executive vice president of a rival far-right party, Reconquête.

In 2018, the European Parliament said that Ms. Le Pen and the others accused had embezzled about $7.2 million between 2009 and 2017.

Ms. Le Pen has made a concerted effort in recent months to clear her party’s name on various fronts, repaying $350,000 to the European Parliament in a separate case involving the employment on false pretenses of two assistants, and reimbursing the $6.5 million balance of a much-criticized loan from a Czech-Russian bank.

The loan was widely seen in France as demonstrating Ms. Le Pen’s close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. She has tried to distance herself to some degree from the Kremlin since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

In 2017, shortly before the French presidential election that year, she traveled to Moscow to shake hands with Mr. Putin in what looked like an official Russian endorsement of her candidacy.

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