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EU parliament lifts far-right founder Le Pen's immunity

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EU lawmakers voted Tuesday to lift the immunity of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the far-right National Front, so France can investigate claims he improperly spent EU funds.

[STRASBOURG] EU lawmakers voted Tuesday to lift the immunity of Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the far-right National Front, so France can investigate claims he improperly spent EU funds.

Members of the European Parliament were responding to a request from French judges investigating charges that Le Pen illegally claimed millions of euros from the parliament to pay France-based staff of what was then the National Front.

Le Pen's estranged daughter Marine, who now heads the renamed National Rally, has already been charged in the case.

The charges against her include breach of trust over salaries paid to her chief of staff Catherine Griset and bodyguard Thierry Legier, and complicity in breach of trust as FN leader.

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An MEP since the 1980s, Jean-Marie Le Pen used his parliamentary immunity to prevent anti-corruption investigators from questioning him in June last year about the case.

Investigators suspect the National Front used money from Brussels earmarked for parliamentary assistants there to pay staff for party work in France.

It was the latest in several attempts to investigate a case against Le Pen senior, now 90 years old. He was absent from the proceedings.

When contacted by AFP, Le Pen said he saw "nothing surprising from an assembly which is divided between two complicit groups, the Socialist left and the so-called liberal right".

He expected "neither indulgence nor objectivity from his colleagues", he added.

MEPs also voted to lift the immunity of Dominique Bilde, a fellow member of the National Rally implicated in the same case.

AFP