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Francois Fillon has been placed under formal investigation, which is legally one step short of being charged, as a part of a judicial probe looking into suspicion of embezzlement, a spokeswoman for his campaign said.

At his request, the French centre-right candidate met with the investigative judges on Tuesday morning, one day earlier than the date set for the meeting tomorrow to avoid media attention, the spokesperson said.

While the outcome was widely expected, the decision is a reminder of the legal woes hanging over Mr Fillon’s campaign less than six weeks before the first round of an unpredictable presidential election.

The 63-year old former prime minister is predicted by surveys to attract 20 per cent of the votes in the first round on 23 April, not enough to qualify for the runoff round on 7 May.

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