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France

Le Pen's party faces shutdown of bank accounts

© Pascal Pochard-Casabianca, AP | French far-right National Front party president Marine Le Pen addresses the media in Pruno on the French Mediterranean Island of Corsica on November 26, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-12-01

The Bank of France ruled Tuesday that the closure of Marine Le Pen’s personal bank account and those of her National Front party did not violate regulations. Claiming political persecution, Le Pen has vowed to fight on.

The fortunes of Marine Le Pen's party have been falling ever since her loss to Emmanuel Macron in May’s presidential elections. However, Le Pen hit a new low last week when Société Générale and its Crédit du Nord subsidiary shut down the bank accounts of her far-right National Front party. To add insult to injury, HSBC also shuttered her personal account.

Ever pugnacious, Le Pen accused the financial institutions of launching a “banking fatwa” against her. The banks didn’t explain why they shut the accounts, simply stating that they were complying with regulations.

In response, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire asked the central Bank of France to examine whether the law had been complied with. On Tuesday, the Bank of France ruled that it had.

“The closure of the National Front’s accounts by the banks does not appear to reflect wrongdoing vis-à-vis their regulatory obligations, and leaves no reason to believe they acted with discrimination,” it said on Tuesday.

The Bank of France revealed that the National Front had held 16 accounts with Société Générale until September 25, as well as a deposit account with Crédit du Nord on which two months' notice was given in late October.

Le Pen rejected the ruling and vowed to take the fight to court, alleging discrimination.

She had earlier said that without functioning bank accounts, her party was shackled.

"After being the victim of massive judicial persecution, we are witnessing a new stage in the persecution of the National Front – banishment from banking," Le Pen told a press conference last Wednesday. “This is an attempt to suffocate an opposition party, and no democrat should accept that.”

"We are cut off at present from our income. This decision puts the National Front in a position of serious difficulty and prevents the party from functioning normally," she said.

"We are witnessing an attempt by the opposition to suffocate us."

Société Générale said in a statement that its decisions "on whether to open or close a bank account depend purely on banking reasons and in respect of all regulatory requirements, without taking into account any political consideration".

A spokeswoman for HSBC France said the bank does not "publicly discuss our relationships with our clients".

No money, money, money

Money has long been an issue for the National Front. During her presidential bid, Le Pen complained that French banks wouldn’t lend her money to finance her more than €12 million campaign. Things got worse after the party’s poor showing in the June legislative elections, which were reported to have cost an additional €15 million. The party called on its members to lend it money directly.

Trouble borrowing money is nothing new for Le Pen. In 2014 when French banks stopped lending to her, she turned to Russia. She ran into trouble this January when one of those Russian-based banks called in a €9 million loan after the bank was dissolved.

Money troubles aren’t the only woes Le Pen has been facing since her defeat. She is confronting dissent from within her party’s ranks. She is under investigation for misuse of European Parliamentary fund. And the French Parliament rescinded her immunity from prosecution after she tweeted gory photos from the Islamic State group, including one of the body of journalist James Foley after he was decapitated by the Islamic State group.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2017-11-28

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