France's former prime minister Francois Fillon and his wife guilty of fraud

Francois Fillon addresses supporters in Paris

Former French PM Fillon embezzled public funds, court r.

Fillon was sentenced to five years in jail, with three years suspended.

His wife was found guilty as an accomplice and was given a three-year suspended sentence and the same size fine.

The convictions mark a devastating fall from grace for a man who was seen as the front-runner in the country's 2017 race to be president before the scandal broke only three months before the election. They both appealed Monday's ruling, putting on hold their sentences.

In a statement, the court said that "nothing concrete has been proven in court regarding the work of Madam Fillon".

Mr Fillon was tried on charges he orchestrated a fake job as parliamentary assistant for his wife, which paid her over a million euros in public funds. "Mrs. Fillon was hired for a position that was without use", chief judge Nathalie Gavarino said, adding that "nothing could justify such remuneration" and the "substantial personal enrichment" of the couple was a result of a scam.

The court also convicted Fillon's wife of complicity to embezzle and hide of public money.

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The ex-prime minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, a Republican, Fillon was considered one of the frontrunners in the race - alongside National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron who eventually emerged as the victor.

But the court rejected this request Monday, even though President Emmanuel Macron - whose path was cleared by Fillon's downfall - has asked for an investigation into the prosecutor's claims. He will also have to pay a €375,000 fine and will be barred from running in elections for 10 years.

"Penelopegate", as the scandal became known, torpedoed the career of one of France's right-wing stars, who was the youngest member of parliament when first elected at just 27 years old.

Prosecutors denounced "fraudulent, systematic practices".

Penelope Fillon's role alongside her husband drew all the attention during the February-March trial, which focused on determining whether her activities were in the traditional role of an elected official's partner - or involved actual paid work. She said working that way allowed her to have a flexible schedule and raise their five children in the Fillons' countryside manor.

The court did not order the arrest of either François or Penelope Fillon.

Fillon insists he was set up for "political assassination" by his rivals and was the victim of a biased judiciary.

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