Conservative French presidential candidate François Fillon angrily dismissed a fresh report yesterday (Tues) alleging that he put his British wife on the public payroll in 1982, four years earlier than he claimed.
"I won't say another word about these things," the centre-Right contender said, slamming "successive revelations, carefully disseminated by state services".
The revelation came as polls see Mr Fillon challenged for his current third place by Communist revolutionary rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon, with one survey putting Mr Mélenchon ahead of him as French voters prepare to cast their first ballots in the two-stage presidential race on April 23.
But the polls also suggest that he and Mr Mélenchon - both on 18-19 per cent - are only four to six percentage points behind the current frontrunners - Emmanuel Macron, the independent centrist, and Marine Le Pen, the far-Right Front National leader.
"It's too close to call," Vincent Chriqui, Mr Fillon's campaign director, told the Telegraph and other English-speaking reporters on Tuesday, insisting that the record numbers of undecided voters - around 40 per cent - meant everything was still to play for.
Once the race's frontrunner, Mr Fillon was charged with abuse of public funds last month. Denying wrongdoing, he has blamed the outgoing Socialist government for the scandal and called for an inquiry into dirty tricks.
The 63-year-old is accused of giving fake jobs to his Welsh-born wife Penelope that earned her €680,000 euros (£580,000) in salary payments between 1986 and 2013. She too is under formal investigation for concealed misuse of public funds.
But Mediapart, the investigative website, said: "Penelope Fillon in fact benefited from public funds from the first parliamentary mandate of her husband through contracts for studies or projects that he commissioned."
Mr Fillon's lawyer Antonin Levy confirmed that investigators seized "contracts for studies" during a raid of the candidate's parliamentary offices in late January but said they were of "no interest" to the probe which he said reaches back only to 1997.
"The real question is why the financial prosecutor, who has known of these documents for weeks, has not spoken of them and why this information is coming out two weeks before the first round" of the vote, he said.
Other sleaze accusations have piled up since the scandal first broke in January.
The Republicans candidate has acknowledged receiving tens of thousands of euros in tax-free loans, including one from his daughter, and receiving gifts of watches from businessmen worth €27,000 euros and bespoke suits costing €13,000.
The conservative ex-prime minister, whose pledge to cut red tape and slash half a million jobs from France's state sector has seen him dubbed "Thatcherite", is calling on the French to vote for the most experienced candidate at a time of economic uncertainty and foreign policy crises.
"I'm not asking you to like me, I'm asking you to support me because it's in the interests of France," he told supporters at a major rally in Paris on Sunday.