Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder and honourary president of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party, is in hot water yet again this week after allegations emerged that he had stashed 2.2 million euros in a secret Swiss bank account.
While Le Pen has been known to make headlines in France for his provocative, if not outright racist or anti-Semitic remarks, this time it’s for possible fiscal fraud.
The 2.2 million euros, 1.7 million of which was in gold bullion and coins, was originally placed in a trust with the Swiss branch of the bank HSBC, French investigative website Mediapart revealed on Monday.
In May 2014, the money was transferred to another Swiss bank, the Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique (CBH), in the Bahamas via a trust handled by Le Pen’s personal assistant, Gérald Gérin, Mediapart reported.
Gérin, who has often been described as Le Pen’s “butler”, is also a regional councillor for the FN, as well as the treasurer of Cotelec and Promelec, two organisations that help raise money for the party by securing loans and donations.
Gérin told Mediapart that his name was not on the trust, adding that he intended to “demand an explanation” from Le Pen. The website, however, claimed to have knowledge of a letter dating back to 2008 in which Gérin recognised that he was the trust’s beneficiary.
Meanwhile, Le Pen’s financial dealings apparently caught the attention of France’s anti-fraud and money laundering agency Tracfin, which alerted the prosecutor’s office in Nanterre, just west of Paris, to the situation in late 2013, Mediapart reported. Around the same time, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened a separate, preliminary investigation into Le Pen’s assets.
FN faces scrutiny over funding
The scandal comes as the FN faces serious questions over its funding. In November 2014, the party confirmed reports that it had borrowed nine million euros from the Moscow-based First Czech Russian Bank (FRCB) because it was struggling to find lenders in France.
More recently, the FN came under scrutiny last month after the European Parliament informed the European Anti-Fraud Office of suspected irregularities regarding the FN’s use of funds intended to pay the salaries of EU parliamentary assistants.
But the FN’s vice president, Florian Philippot, has insisted that Marine Le Pen, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter and the party’s current leader, knew nothing about the secret account.
“[She] is very surprised, doesn’t know anything else and, like all of us, is waiting for Jean-Marie Le Pen to explain,” Philippot told French television iTELE. “It’s up to him to explain, because it’s his personal finances that are concerned, but I cannot believe that it is true.”
On Tuesday, however, Jean-Marie Le Pen slammed the allegations, refusing to offer an explanation.
“This is part of a general offensive that has been launched against us. I’m not beholden to explain anything anyone has said, in particular para-police bodies that are tasked with sowing discord in the political class,” he told France Inter radio. “That’s how they earn their money: they create scandal.”
Le Pen has been a constant source of embarrassment for his daughter and the FN ever since ceding the party’s leadership to her in 2011.
Earlier this month, Marine Le Pen came out publically against her father after he repeated inflammatory comments describing the Holocaust as a “detail” of history, adding that he believed France’s collaborationist World War II leader, Marshal Philippe Pétain, had been unfairly judged by history.
He is expected to face disciplinary proceedings within the FN over the remarks next week.
Date created : 2015-04-28