France election: Fillon spokesman denies tax evasion

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image source, AFP
image captionThierry Solere denies claims in the Canard Enchaine weekly that there are questions about whether he may have failed to pay some of his taxes between 2010 and 2013

The scandal-hit campaign of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon has been hit by new allegations in the media.

Mr Fillon's spokesman, Thierry Solere, is being investigated for alleged tax evasion, reported the Canard Enchaine.

Mr Solere denied any wrongdoing and has announced his intention to sue the satirical newspaper for libel.

But it is another distraction for Mr Fillon as he clings to the centre-right candidacy nine weeks before elections.

Mr Fillon and his family are the subject of a preliminary investigation into claims, which also originated in the Canard Enchaine, that his wife and two of his children were paid hundreds of thousands of euros for non-existent parliamentary work.

Before the claims surfaced, Mr Fillon was the favourite to win the presidency, but polls now show him running third behind the National Front's Marine Le Pen and independent centrist Emmanuel Macron.

On Tuesday, Mr Fillon once again faced down demands to stand aside in favour of another candidate - this time from 20 lawmakers within his own Republicans Party.

The Canard Enchaine reported that Mr Solere was the target of a preliminary tax fraud investigation by the public prosecutor in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

The prosecutor confirmed the preliminary investigation but would not comment further.

Among other claims are questions about whether Mr Solere failed to pay a portion of his income taxes from 2010 to 2013.

But later on BFMTV, Mr Solere denied any fraud allegations and said he would sue the weekly for libel for "recycling" old claims which had been dealt with. He said he had "always declared my income" and was currently "up to date with my taxes".

Russian 'smears'

Meanwhile, an aide to Mr Macron has accused Russia of trying to derail his campaign.

Last week, Mr Macron was forced to deny suggestions he had had a gay affair.

Benjamin Griveaux accused the Kremlin of mounting a "smear campaign" against Mr Macron, who is a supporter of the European Union, via media organisations such as Russia Today and Sputnik.

"The Kremlin has chosen its candidates: Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen," Mr Griveaux told the broadcaster i-Tele, according to AFP news agency.

That was "for a very simple reason: they do not want a strong Europe, they want a weak Europe," he said.

The Kremlin, RT and Sputnik have all staunchly denied the claims.

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