François Fillon inquiry to remain open, financial prosecutor says

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Eliane Houlette, France's financial prosecutor, said that on February 15 her office received the first elements gleaned by police officials in their probe into suspected embezzlement.

France's financial prosecutor will announce on Thursday the result of a preliminary investigation into fake work allegations surrounding presidential candidate Francois Fillon's wife, a source close to the case told Reuters.

The prosecutor said that "numerous elements collected (by investigators) do not, at this stage, permit the case to be dropped".

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It is alleged that Fillon's wife, Penelope, and children have received public funds for work they did not do.

Fillon, long a front-runner for the April 23-May 7 election, has denied wrongdoing in employing family members and is sticking to his campaign. "The investigation will continue".

His lawyers said the prosecutor's decision was "without justification" and accused the prosecutors of violating rules about investigative secrecy.

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Among those potential steps would be elevating the case to a formal judicial inquiry, which would allow for preliminary charges. The prosecutor's office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre confirmed the existence of the probe, but would not comment further.

With the first round of voting nine weeks away, some are calling for a speedier investigation than usual in a country where high-profile legal proceedings often take years to come to trial.

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