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A French judge will investigate allegations that centre-right presidential candidate Francois Fillon gave his Welsh wife a fake job as his parliamentary aide, according to a statement on Friday.

France’s financial prosecutor had previously said it was opening a preliminary investigation into possible embezzlement and misuse of public funds. Mr Fillon — whose campaign platform had included a vow to restore high moral standards in French politics — has faced pressure to drop out of the race, following claims from a satirical weekly newspaper that he paid his wife more than €800,000 for an allegedly fake job.

Mr Fillon has not denied that he employed his wife, nor the amounts, but he has insisted that his wife Penelope earned her pay.

In a statement on Friday, the national financial prosecutor’s office said a judicial investigation would ensue, following its preliminary probe.

Mr Fillon’s lawyers told Reuters that they were confident the results would prove the innocence of the candidate and his wife, and reiterated criticism of what they claimed were leaks to the media about details of the probe.

While the news is “unlikely to help his position” in the race, rival Emmanuel Macron, a political novice, is more likely to benefit, while far-right candidate Marine Le Pen likely stands to gain less from news of the probe, said Deutsche Bank analyst Sebastien Galy.

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