French presidential hopeful François Fillon has accused President François Hollande of orchestrating a series of damaging leaks.
Fillon enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls until an ever-growing fake jobs scandal involving his wife and children came to dominate his campaign.
The 63-year-old Republican is now being investigated by French police for his part in any wrongdoing, but, in an unusual move, he pinned the blame on Hollande, who is playing no role in this election.
"You have newspapers today which receive documents 48 hours after they were seized in searches, for example in my office in the National Assembly. Who gives them these documents? The state services," he said in an interview with France 2 television on Thursday (23 March), reports Reuters.
Asked whether politicians or the justice system gave approval for these leaks, Fillon said: "I will go much further. I blame the president of the republic."
The claims were immediately denied by the president's office, which said that Hollande "condemns with the greatest firmness the false allegations of Fillon".
"The executive has never intervened in any judicial procedure and has always strictly respected the independence of the judiciary," it said in a statement, adding that Fillon's allegations brought "intolerable discord" to the campaign.
Fillon also demanded an inquiry into allegations that he said would be revealed by two journalists in an upcoming book. He claimed that wiretaps that were of interest to Hollande were directly sent to the president's office, decrying the claim "a state scandal".
Attacking Hollande is widely seen as Fillon's last glimmer of hope at attaining office.
However, opinion polls suggest that he will be eliminated in the first round of two presidential elections, taking place on 23 April and 7 May.