Marine Le Pen refuses to repay €300000 in misused European Union funds

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Le Pen faces a second repayment deadline of €41,554 by 28 February for wages paid to her bodyguard.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right Front National, has refused a demand to repay almost €300,000 (£258,000) of EU funds that a European parliament investigation alleged she misspent. Changing its racist and anti-Semitic image has taken time, determination and a bitter family feud.

The parliament had given Le Pen until midnight on Tuesday to repay most of the total sum, but she refused.

Her relationship with her father, however, has been the subject of much media scrutiny.

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Her campaign director David Rachline said Tuesday on BFM television his party suffered "persecution" from European Union authorities, suggesting she has no intention of paying.

In a statement to Reuters news agency, Le Pen described the demand as "a unilateral decision taken by political opponents. without proof and without waiting for a judgment from the court action I have started".

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble said that he hopes that Ms. Le Pen never becomes President.

The money the European Parliament wants returned was used to pay the salary of Catherine Griset, a close friend of Le Pen as well as her cabinet director.

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The parliament demanded an initial repayment of nearly €300,000 (£257,000), but the far-right party leader was steadfast in her refusal to pay back the funds, rejecting the allegation of misuse. It means her monthly parliamentary income will be reduced to €3,000.

The investigation however found that Le Pen's assistant was unable to prove she continually resided in Belgium, or indeed regularly worked in Brussels, as stipulated in the contract with the European Parliament. But the watchdog reports that most of her time was spent working in the National Front's headquarters in Paris.

The investigation into misuse of funds was led by the watchdog on fraud against the European Union budget.

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