France's Fillon denounces 'witch hunt' after suit revelations

A newspaper report claims an anonymous benefactor has bought 48,500 euros' worth of clothes for Francois Fillon since 2012

France's rightwing presidential candidate Francois Fillon said Monday that he was the target of a "witch hunt" by journalists after revelations that a wealthy friend had bought him luxury suits worth thousands of euros.

Fillon is still reeling from a media expose in January which brought to light how he had used public funds to pay his wife and children hundreds of thousands of euros for suspected fake jobs as parliamentary assistants.

"I am the target of such a number of attacks that I can't consider them anything other than a sort of witch hunt, a kind of campaign against me," the former prime minister told Europe 1 radio on Monday morning.

"What could explain that hundreds of journalists, at the very least dozens, go through my garbage to find out about my suits. Tomorrow it will be my shirts and then why not my underpants as well?" he added.

The Journal du Dimanche newspaper claimed Sunday that an anonymous benefactor had paid nearly 48,500 euros ($51,800) for clothing for Fillon from the jet-set tailor Arnys since 2012.

"It's not correct, of course," Fillon said on Monday when asked about the figure, but he admitted on Sunday that a "friend" had paid for two suits at the end of February.

Fillon will be summoned on Wednesday to be charged for misuse of public funds over the employment of his wife.

She is suspected of not having worked for her salary. Fillon insists that she did.

Polls suggest that independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, would win the two-stage election on April 23 and May 7 if it were held today, but analysts warn against making firm forecasts in such a rollercoaster campaign.

Fillon, a veteran politician who was prime minister from 2007-2012, has a wide network of political and business contacts.

In 2012, he broke his ankle after falling off a scooter on holiday in Italy, while he was staying on the island of Capri as a guest of the head of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.