Wednesday

18th Jan 2017

Le Pen borrowed €9mn from Kremlin-linked bank

The far-right French party, Front National (FN), borrowed €9 million from a Russian bank, posing questions over its relationship with the Kremlin.

The loan, by the First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB), was granted in late September, according to a report out on Saturday (22 November) in Mediapart, an online investigative journal.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It notes the FCRB is de facto owned by Roman Popov, a financier with close ties to the Russian political establishment.

Wallerand de Saint-Just, the FN’s treasurer, told Mediapart the loan was organised by Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, an FN euro-deputy.

“We’d been looking for a loan for a long time, notably to finance our election campaigns. Our bank, like many other French and European banks, categorically refused to lend a single centime to the FN or to FN candidates”, he said.

“So Mr Schaffhauser … who has had good relations in Russia for a long time, said: ‘Let me go and see this bank’.”

De Saint-Just denied the FCRB loan amounts to foreign interference in French politics, saying he has never met Popov and has only had contact with the bank’s “technical" staff.

Marine Le Pen, the FN chief and also an MEP, told French daily Le Monde that her party tried to get loans from Asian, Italian, Spanish, and US banks as well as from the Russian lender.

“The first one we managed to get, we signed, and we’re very happy … what’s scandalous is that French banks aren’t lending”, she said.

She dismissed as “ridiculous” the question whether the FCRB millions came with strings attached.

“That kind of insinuation is injurious and outlandish. Just because we got a loan, that’ll determine our international position? We’ve had the same [pro-Russian] line for a long time”, she said.

Le Pen has praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine and blamed the West for causing the crisis.

Her deputies vote against Russia-critical resolutions in the EU parliament.

Schaffhauser was also one of a handful of MEPs who went to monitor "elections" in the Russia-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” in east Ukraine on 2 November.

Aymeric Chauprade, Le Pen’s advisor on foreign policy, went to monitor the Crimea "referendum" on independence in March.

Le Monde reported earlier this year that Chauprade also met with Kremlin envoys in Vienna in May, along with other far-right European politicians, to discuss how to combat “European liberalism and homosexuality”.

The FN is currently polling ahead of both the centre-left and centre-right Socialist and UMP parties in France.

Meanwhile, Moscow's links to the far right are not limited to France.

Hungarian authorities have asked the EU parliament to lift the immunity of Bela Kovacs, an MEP from the far-right Jobbik party, after accusing him of taking money from Russian intelligence services.

Kovacs, who denies the allegations, like Chauprade monitored the Crimea "referendum".

Tatjana Zdanoka, a Latvian MEP from the pro-Russian Latvijas Krievu savieniba party, who also went to observe the Crimea poll, is under a similar investigation at home.

EU criticises Trump's Israel embassy idea

EU foreign relations chief Mogherini has warned that if Trump moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem it could have “serious consequences”.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey