Foreign interference: the RN in money laundering operation

Foreign interference: the RN in money laundering operation

2023-05-31 05:54:43

Marine Le Pen arrived with her cards, stored in a transparent blue pouch. The ferocious smile and the concentrated face of the days when the fight promises to be unpleasant. Before the members of the National Assembly’s commission of inquiry into foreign interference, the president of the RN group answered, Wednesday, May 24, for four hours, questions questioning her independence, mainly with regard to Russia. “I don’t have a pro-Russian tropism, I have a pro-France tropism! I only ask one question: the interest of the French,” she swore under oath, when she was questioned about the counterparties linked to obtaining its two Russian loans of 2014, 2 million euros paid via a holding company to the micro-party Cotelec of Jean-Marie Le Pen, and 9 million euros from a Czech-Russian bank for the FN. For those who claim a Gaullist vision, and officially swear by “equidistance” in international relations, the exercise is unpleasant, but could bear fruit in the long term.

Because the idea of ​​this commission of inquiry is indeed his. Finally, especially that of the deputy of the Somme Jean-Philippe Tanguy, one of the new faces of the Lepenist party who integrated, thanks to the last presidential campaign, his inner circle. The incarnation, for many, of this new RN – polite, qualified and from the ranks of Debout la France – which makes certain observers say that the party of national preference would no longer be on the far right. The initiative is surprising: it consists in relying not on its strengths, but on its weaknesses, in order to settle what still constitutes a major handicap for the party to the flame.

The campaign strategists are all convinced that the fear of a Marine Le Pen subservient to Vladimir Putin, in the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian war, constituted a foil for part of the elderly electorate during the interval between the two rounds of the presidential election. The bet is cheeky: by deciding to use their annual drawing rights in the Assembly to create a commission on the subject, the Lepenist parliamentarians thus hoped to prove, at best, that they have nothing to reproach themselves for, and at the minimum that all the other parties have also maintained murky ties with foreign powers. For more than twenty weeks, the members of the commission, from all political parties, interviewed all those who had near or far to deal with the subject. Former ministers Arnaud Montebourg and Michel Sapin, a panoply of ambassadors, experts, former Prime Minister François Fillon…

Brilliant idea or kamikaze initiative? Most of the elected officials interviewed, both in the RN and in the opposition, tend to think that the initiative could constitute a good political coup, for several reasons.

A “necessarily disappointing” result

Firstly, the very interminable title of the commission (commission of inquiry into political, economic and financial interference by foreign powers – States, organizations, companies, interest groups, private individuals – aimed at influencing or corrupting relays of opinion, leaders or French political parties), broad enough to mix everything up, and therefore retain nothing. A difficulty addressed from the first hearings, during which the experts followed one another to specify the use of each term, without lifting the veil on what the commission was looking for exactly. “We are on the intangible, what is the limit between interference and influence?” Asks MP LR Pierre-Henri Dumont, interested in the hearings but skeptical about the chances of getting anything out of it. it would be. A criticism summed up by this formula from Philippe Brun (PS): “The object is so broad that the result is necessarily disappointing. It is as if we were asking an examining magistrate to investigate all the assassinations in France. ” What is the relationship between Rachid M’Barki, suspected of having broadcast on BFM TV information provided by an Israeli disinformation agency, RN MEP Thierry Mariani (who is the subject of two preliminary investigations for possible corruption and influence peddling in connection with its influence association Franco-Russian Dialogue) and Jean-Pierre Chevènement, appointed by France as special envoy to Russia? The last two were however invited to develop, in a similar way, their links with the country of Vladimir Putin.

The second pitfall of this commission lies in its raison d’être. In France, a parliamentary “inquiry” commission has no investigative powers: it cannot encroach on the work of justice, nor rely on that of the police or make seizures. Nothing to do with the prerogatives of the American Congress, whose powers are much broader, and whose most famous hearings have impregnated the collective imagination. Auditioned, Thierry Mariani was thus able to unfold his usual line of defense with ease, questioned lip service, never revived or jostled by his colleagues who listen to him religiously denounce “the legends”, “the fantasies” which surround his travels in Syria. or in Russia. “I am not the prosecutor Muller, I do not have the means of a congressman American”, recognizes the rapporteur Constance Le Grip. The one who concedes having tried “to remain courteous”, without being “sure of having managed to do the best”, recalls a reality: “The commission of inquiry will not bring up suddenly a third Russian loan that Marine Le Pen would not have declared!” Limits which had not escaped the RN executives, confident that the commission would be unable to provide evidence to support suspicions of interference.”I had clearly said that if the commission discovered something, we would sanction”, argues Jean-Philippe Tanguy.At the beginning of May, Marine Le Pen slipped him a note, to congratulate him for his initiative and the holding of debates.

The “accomplices” of the RN’s communication strategy

“We are accomplices in the communication strategy of the RN”, regrets Philippe Brun, who evokes “a great clowning, quite unpleasant for the deputies who are part of it”. “The original error is that the other parties did not take up the issue. The question of interference was handled with culpable indolence”, regrets Raphaël Glucksmann, head of a commission of similar investigation within the European Parliament, and heard in the context of the French debates.

Unlike in Brussels, where far-right elected representatives generally deny any privileged link with the Russian friend, the MEP notes that they have chosen a finer strategic approach in France. “Jean-Philippe Tanguy tries to show that all the parties were wrong about Russia, and that the troubled relations are not specific to the RN. It is a powerful argument, even if obviously no other party has ever married a so generally the position of Vladimir Putin.” During her hearing, Marine Le Pen was also happy to shell out the statements of her right-wing rivals or even the rebels to prove that she was not alone in asking, for example, for the lifting of sanctions. against Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

There remains a hope for opponents of the RN: a report, whose writing is based on Constance Le Grip, nuanced, sufficiently precise and enlightened so that we do not confuse individual aberrations present in each political formation and an alignment of a political party on a foreign power. In private, Jean-Philippe Tanguy admitted having made a mistake, choosing the honorary post of president and not the more strategic one of rapporteur. As for Constance Le Grip, the macronist confesses to thinking “day and night about the responsibility that is the [sienne]. You can write it, day and night”. A summary, expected no later than June 5 at midnight, the date on which the commission will cease to operate, for better or for worse.

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