The European Parliament has ordered the political group of French far-right leader and former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to reimburse more than 500,000 euros ($581,669.50) claimed in unjustified expenses, including expensive champagne and dinners.
The decision on Monday was unanimously backed by a unit charged with vetting the accounts of the different political groupings, a parliamentary source told the AFP nrews agency.
The political group Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) to which Le Pen’s party belongs, had claimed 477,780 euros ($555,820) in expenses in 2016 that the parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee deemed unjustified or non-compliant.
It also ruled that 66,427 euros ($77,277) worth of claims for the following year were unjustified.
The audit report for 2016 showed claims for about one hundred Christmas presents worth more than 100 euros ($116) each, 230 bottles of champagne, and a Christmas meal for 140 people with a tab of more than 13,500 euros ($15,705), according to AFP.
A meal with some industrialists at the posh Parisian restaurant, L’Ambroisie, cost 449 euros ($522) a head.
Le Pen’s National Rally party was known until a recent name change as the National Front.
This investigation follows last year’s inquiry over the abuse of expenses by National Front parliamentary assistants.
The ENF group brings together 35 MEPs, of which almost half are from Le Pen’s party. It also includes members of the Austrian FPO, the Italian League and the Dutch Party for Freedom.
Some of the group’s 2018 funds had already been frozen by the parliament as a precaution to ensure it could pay back the money.