Outside the courtroom, Bayrou said the court’s decision marked the end of a “seven-year-long nightmare.” It was initially estimated that the European Parliament had incurred €1.4 million in losses from the embezzlement scheme, but the institution’s legal defense had lowered the figure to €293,000 by the start of the trial, AFP reported.
Bayrou endorsed Macron ahead of his 2017 presidential bid and was appointed justice minister after the election but resigned a month later due to the embezzlement accusations. He has since stayed on as mayor of Pau, a city near the Franco-Spanish border, and said he was “not ruling out” a future presidential run in an interview last year. His party represents roughly one-fifth of MPs in Macron’s coalition.
The far-right National Rally has also been accused of using EU money to pay party officials. Its presidential candidate, Marine Le Pen, will go on trial along with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, later this year, FranceInfo reported, adding that the European Parliament was claiming damages of up to €6.8 million from the misallocation of funds over an eight-year period from 2009 to 2017. Le Pen and the National Rally have denied any wrongdoing.
The case could have significant political ramifications. Embezzlement charges carry a possible ban on running for public office of up to 10 years. Marine Le Pen has repeatedly stated her plans to lead a fourth presidential campaign in 2027 and is currently projected far ahead in polling for the first round of voting.