PARIS, March 24 (Xinhua) -- French President Francois Hollande rejected allegations by presidential candidate Francois Fillon that he was behind a government plot to dash his chances to win the race to the Elysee Palace, after ordering a damaging media leak over his wife's fake job.
In a statement issued by his office late on Thursday, Hollande "condemns with the greatest firmness the false allegations of Fillon."
"Since 2012 ... the executive has never intervened in any judicial process and has always strictly respected the independence of the judiciary," the statement said.
According to Hollande, Fillon's allegations of ordering leaks of compromising materials about his wife's fake job as a parliamentary aide "have no basis" and "cause an intolerable disturbance in the presidential campaign which calls for dignity, serenity and responsibility."
In a television interview late on Thursday, the conservative candidate accused Hollande of heading a "secret cell" aimed at leaking sensitive data.
Citing a soon-to-be-published book by some journalists, Fillon said the French president had the contents of all phone taps linked to judicial investigations which interested him, "which is totally illegal."
Fillon, 63, once the presidential front-runner, has been trailing in the third place after French satirical weekly, Le Canard Enchaine, reported on January 25 that Fillon had paid his wife and two of his five children about one million euros (roughly 1.1 million U.S. dollars) for their jobs as parliamentary assistants.
However, there was no evidence showing his wife had really worked, the report added. Fillon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and denounced a judicial bias in the investigation of his wife's fake job allegation.
The former prime minister was also placed under formal investigation on suspicion of misusing public funds. The fraud probe has been widened to include luxury suits he received as gifts.
France's 2017 two-round presidential election is scheduled for April 23 and May 7.