France: Front National raided over EU fraud allegations
The headquarters of the French far-right Front National (FN) party have been raided as part of an EU fraud investigation, reports say.
FN founder Jean-Marie Le Pen's home and his personal secretary Gerald Gerin's office were also raided.
Investigators want to know if the party has used EU money allocated exclusively for MEPs' assistants at the European Parliament in Strasbourg to pay general staff salaries.
The FN denies any wrongdoing.
In a statement, it condemned the raids as a "political operation" directed by President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls to "hinder and intimidate" the party.
In December the party came third in regional elections after winning six out of 13 regions in the first round of voting.
The allegations surround salaries paid to 20 EU-funded assistants for FN MEPs in Strasbourg who also featured in the party's staff list last March.
Investigators want to know if the FN was effectively getting the EU to pay its staff salaries by falsely claiming they were working in Strasbourg, French media reported.
On the staff list, Mr Gerin appeared both as Mr Le Pen's private secretary and as the assistant of the party's MEP Marie-Christine Arnautu in Strasbourg.
The raids also targeted Nicolas Crochet, an accountant close to the FN who has already been investigated as part of a separate probe into the party's funding.
Last March, the European Parliament called in the EU's fraud squad to examine the possible financial irregularities.
In an internal memo quoted by the AFP news agency, the party said the names on its staff list included part-time staff who divided their time between party work and work for a particular MEP as well as volunteer staff.