FOCUS – The President of the Republic strongly attacked the candidate supported by the National Rally whom he accuses of “depending on Russian power and Mr Putin”.
The blind “internationalof the debate between the two rounds promised to be slippery for Marine Le Pen, after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The RN candidate, who over the past years had multiplied signs of sympathy for Vladimir Putin, was attacked on this point by his opponent, Emmanuel Macron. More specifically, the outgoing president attacked the loan that the National Rally (ex-National Front) had contracted in 2014 from a Russian bank to finance its activities. According to Emmanuel Macron, it is “independenceby Marine Le Pen, who vacillates with this loan:when you talk to Russia, you talk to your banker“said the candidate. Le Figaro takes stock of what you need to know about the loan at the heart of the controversy.
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Statements by Emmanuel Macron
Even if it means eclipsing other international issues, the outgoing president has long attacked his opponent on this subject. “I say this very seriously, you depend on Russian power and Mr Putin. You took out a loan in 2015 from a Russian bank close to the government and then reboutiqued this loan with other players involved in the war in Syria“, released Emmanuel Macron. And to add: So you don’t talk to other executives, you talk to your banker. You have always been ambiguous on the subject because you are not in a power-to-power situation, your interests are linked to those of Russia”.
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A loan dating from 2014
In 2014, the National Front actually turned to Russia to take out a loan and finance the campaign for the 2015 regional and departmental elections. As the RN candidate recalled on Wednesday evening, the party approached Russian banks because of the reluctance of banks to lend to political parties, and more particularly to the party to the flame.
The loan, amounting to 9.4 million euros, was contracted with the First Czech-Russian Bank (FCBR). The RN continues to repay it, despite the fact that the bank, created in 2007, closed in 2016. The RN’s claim was in fact sold to a Russian car rental company, Conti, then resold to Aviazaptchast , a firm trading in aircraft spare parts and run by former Russian soldiers.
Marine Le Pen’s party subsequently had difficulty repaying this loan. While the date for final reimbursement was set for September 2019, the RN was sued by Aviazaptchast for the “credit recovery“, before finding an amicable agreement in 2020. As confirmed by Marine Le Pen on Wednesday evening, the RN continues to this day to repay the loan. “We’re a poor party, but that’s not dishonorable“, argued the candidate, who described herself as”totally free».
What is FCRB?
Does Marine Le Pen speakto his bankerwhen it addresses Russia, as Emmanuel Macron suggested? This attack echoes a series of tweets signed by Alexeï Navalny a few hours before the debate on Wednesday. The political opponent of Vladimir Putin, currently imprisoned, indicated in a series of messages in French that “this bank is a well-known money laundering agency that was created at the instigation of Putin“. Navalny, known for his investigations into corruption in Russia, continues: “I have no doubt that their negotiations with these people and their dealings with them involve a secret political agreement. It is bribery. And it’s a sale of political influence to Putin».
The FCRB was headed by Roman Popov, himself very close to Gennady Timchenko, an influential friend of Vladimir Putin. “They belong to a circle of people very close to Putin“, explains to Figaro Anton Shekhovtsov, director of the Center for Democratic Integrity and author of the book Russia and the Western Far Right (in English). He pursues : “this means in my opinion that, even if Putin did not order it himself, this loan could not have been granted without his knowledge».
In an investigation published in 2015, Mediapart also indicated that in March 2014, after Marine Le Pen’s special adviser for international relations went to Crimea as “observer“, a Kremlin official whose correspondence was revealed by hackers would have sought how “somehow thank the French“. Marine Le Pen and the financing association chaired by Jean-Marie Le Pen, Cotelec, obtained a loan from Russian banks shortly afterwards.
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A lengthy article from the Alliance for Securing Democracy website also sheds light on the murky activities of the FRCB, which participated in financial support of the Iranian regime or in money laundering operations, until its liquidation in July 2016 .
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