Investigators in France have decided to extend their probe into allegations of illegal payment to family members by presidential candidate Francois Fillon to include two of his children.
Sources close to the inquiry said Thursday that the investigation was being widened to look if Marie and Charles Fillon had carried out work for their father in return for large sums of money.
Fillon, the candidate for French conservatives in the presidential election on April 23 and May 7, was dealt a major blow on January 25, when satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine published information revealing that he had paid his wife Penelope 500,000 euros (USD 540,250) for work for him that she did not appear to have done.
The former prime minister had led the presidential race for weeks before the revelations. Fillon himself had capitalized on scandals that ruined the image of party rivals ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-premier Alain Juppe to win the primary of Republicans in November.
Now, Fillon faces a probe which could badly affect his presidential chances as other candidates, namely former economy minister Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen of the anti-refugee and anti-EU National Front, are both scoring highly in the polls.
Reports on Tuesday showed that investigators had carried out a raid into Fillon's office in parliament and seized documents. Sources close to the investigation said that Fillon's staff voluntarily handed over the documents.
Republicans in the lower house have defended Fillon in the face of allegations, with their leader Christian Jacob saying lawmakers are unanimously behind him.
It is legal in France for parliament members to employ family members, but the source behind the revelations insists the job, for which Fillon paid his wife was factious as there has been no witness to Penelope's work.
Fillon says, however, that his Welsh-born wife played a real, if discreet, role during his time in parliament. He has slammed the revelations as a dirty trick campaign.