François Fillon, the scandal-plagued French presidential candidate, allegedly failed to fulfil a promise to return bespoke suits he was accused of accepting as gifts in return for favours, it has emerged.
With only a week before the first round of voting, the revelation by the investigative website Mediapart will further embarrass the conservative candidate, who lost his place as frontrunner in opinion polls after being placed under investigation for allegedly giving his British wife a “fake” job as his parliamentary assistant.
Mr Fillon received three suits costing €13,000 from Robert Bourgi, a Franco-Lebanese lawyer, in what he admitted last month was an “error of judgement” — although he denied any wrongdoing.
After the existence of the gifts was revealed last month, Mr Fillon, became the subject of a further investigation into suspected “influence peddling”.
He claimed he had returned the suits, made to measure by the chic Paris tailor Arnys.
However, investigators now suspect two suits he ‘gave back’ to Mr Bourgi were not the ones he had received, Mediapart reported.
“They did not appear to be Arnys suits,” Eric Moutet, a lawyer acting for Mr Bourgi, told the website. “In the pocket of one, there was a ‘Made in Holland’ label.”
He said Mr Fillon had also returned a blazer and a pair of trousers made by Arnys, which Mr Bourgi gave him in 2014.
Mr Bourgi said that after the scandal was revealed, he had come under pressure from Mr Fillon’s campaign team to keep quiet about the suits and initially denied that he had given them to the candidate.
Mr Bougi said he was annoyed “to have had to lie (about the gifts) for a week.”
He said earlier that the gifts involved neither “conflict of interest nor influence-peddling”.
Mr Fillon, who has also admitted accepting watches worth more than €27,000, has failed to shake off allegations of sleaze that have derailed his campaign, although he is still one of the four leading candidates in what polls indicate is a close race. It also emerged last week that Mr Fillon put his British wife on the public payroll four years earlier than he initially claimed.