Francois Fillon, whose bid for the French presidency was derailed by a fake jobs scandal, is facing further embarrassment after claims that a mystery benefactor paid for nearly €50,000 worth of suits for him in a chic Left Bank shop.
Over the past five years the conservative candidate has received clothes worth €48,500 (£43,000) from Arnys, a made-to-measure clothing outlet for the rich and famous, the Journal du Dimanche claimed.
Of that amount, €35,500 was paid in cash, with a young woman usually bringing the money to the store on Rue de Sèvres, the weekly newspaper alleged.
But two suits bought in February - shortly after the scandal broke over the allegedly fake but very well-paid jobs Mr Fillon arranged for his British wife - were paid for by cheque.
“I paid at the request of François Fillon," the person who signed the the cheque told the newspaper.
“By the way, without receiving the slightest thanks since then," added the benefactor, who was not identified.
Mr Fillon, who for weeks was the frontrunner in the presidential election race but has now fallen back to third place after the fake jobs scandal, confirmed that he had received free clothes last month.
“A friend gave me a present of suits in February. So what?” he asked in an interview with Les Echos newspaper.
“I note that my private life is the subject of all sorts of inquiries… I don’t know who it is that is trying to damage me,” he said.
He did not mention that the suits were allegedly paid for in cash.
A source in his election campaign team dismissed as “totally extravagant” the Journal du Dimanche claim that a series of cash payments were made to pay Arnys for the 63-year-old ex-prime minister’s clothes.
"No serious store would accept cash payments in such amounts," the source said.
On Wednesday Mr Fillon is expected to be formally charged over the alleged embezzlement related to his wife’s job as a parliamentary assistant.
He said in January he would stand down as a candidate in the two-round presidential election starting late April if he was charged with wrongdoing.
But he has since decided to renege on that promise, arguing that he is the victim of an attempted "political assassination" and that "the rule of law was systematically violated" in the fake jobs investigation.