PARIS (AP) — The party of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been charged with allegedly misusing European Parliament funds to pay parliamentary aides who did political work for the National Front.
A judicial official said on Tuesday that the party was charged on Nov. 30 as a legal entity with complicity in breach of trust, five months after Le Pen was charged.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly.
In addition to Le Pen, investigators suspect other National Front lawmakers used legislative aides for the party's political activities while they were on the European Parliament payroll.
National Front (FN) spokesman Sebastien Chenu told BFMTV channel that party officials will not accept "these unfounded judicial proceedings."
The party later said in a statement it and asked for the removal of the judge in charge of the case. It said judge Claire Thepaut should not be dealing with this matter because she is a member of the Syndicat de la Magistrature, a magistrates' trade union.
"It is absolutely intolerable that representatives of this far-left union can in any way rule on matters related to the FN and its leaders," the party said.
A conviction for breach of trust charge carries a potential penalty of up to three years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros ($428,000).
Le Pen's profile has diminished on the political front after once being the front-runner in the presidential race, and she does not plan to lead her party's list at the 2019 European Parliament election. She denies all the charges.