Russian loan to the RN: Marine Le Pen denies any political counterpart for Putin
The former president of the National Rally (RN) was heard for nearly four hours by the parliamentary commission of inquiry into foreign interference. At the center of the discussions, a loan of 9.4 million euros contracted with a Czech-Russian bank, in 2014, by the ex-FN, then directed by Marine Le Pen.
Did it give rise to political pressure or compensation? “If that had committed me to anything, I would not have signed”, affirmed the leader of the RN, swearing to have “nothing to reproach (himself) in this affair” and mentioning a “perfectly legal, perfectly verified” loan.
She assured that, if elected in 2027, she will ban political parties from foreign loans. She also promised the creation of a “democracy bank” to help the parties finance their electoral campaigns, a recurring idea, including in the majority, but which Emmanuel Macron never followed up.
“It was that or the death” of the party
The unsuccessful three-time presidential candidate dwelt on the critical financial situation her party was facing at the time, as well as on her difficulties in finding a European creditor.
At the beginning of May, before the same commission of inquiry, the former FN MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser had explained that he had been instructed by Marine Le Pen to find funds: “We could only find on the Chinese side, Iran, or Russia,” he said. “Marine Le Pen had considered that Russia was the best”. “It was that or the death” of the party, confirmed this Wednesday, the far-right leader.
Was Vladimir Putin informed of the negotiation? “It is obvious that, if the power in place was against, the case would not have been made”, noted Jean-Luc Schaffhauser. “Me, I sign a loan with a bank, I do not sign a loan with Vladimir Poutine”, indirectly answered Marine Le Pen.
Could the transaction, however, explain the support of the Frontist leaders for Russia after the invasion of Crimea, questions the commission. “Crimea was Russian for two centuries, it was Ukrainian for sixty years,” replied Marine Le Pen, assuring them that “the arrival, or not, of a loan has not changed one iota the opinions that have always been ours”.
What about support for the 2014 referendum, the sincerity of which was contested by all international observers? “I note that there were no refugees from Crimea,” quipped Marine Le Pen. “It was perfectly permissible for international bodies to reorganize a new one (…) to verify that people had freely voted”.
The movements of certain elected RNs on the spot to support the Russian positions? “Each MEP is free”. Marine Le Pen’s opposition to the sanctions taken by France and the European Union against Russia after the annexation of Crimea? “I had the same position as Les Républicains”, she swept away.
“I formally contest having taken any decision whatsoever to please anyone”, summed up the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, noting that “the only obligation we have when we make a loan is to to reimburse “.
The repurchase of the loan
Still, the case took an incredible turn when the bank went bankrupt, its debts being then bought in cascade by different companies. The last, to which the RN continues to repay its debt, is deemed as sulphurous as it is close to the Kremlin.
“I have no responsibility in the structure that buys the debts,” defended Marine Le Pen. “If it had been La Redoute that had bought it, it would have been the same level of obligation for me: to repay my loan”.
Under the fire of questions from the deputies of the majority and the oppositions, the one who had been received in the Kremlin, a few days before the presidential election of 2017, assured to have “never had” a conversation on this loan and its repurchase with Vladimir Poutine. ” Never ! Nor with the political personalities that I met, in the Duma or elsewhere”.
The commission of inquiry was launched by the RN group in the Assembly, at the end of 2022, precisely to try to cut short the accusations making the far-right party an agent of Russian influence in France. The other camps denounce a “diversion” of the National Rally.
Its conclusions must be made in early June.
letelegramme Fr Trans