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National Rally's Marine Le Pen investigated for illicit 2022 campaign financing

Far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen answers reporters after the second round of the legislative election at the party election night HQ in Paris, 7 July 2024
Far-right National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen answers reporters after the second round of the legislative election at the party election night HQ in Paris, 7 July 2024 Copyright AP Photo/Louise Delmotte
Copyright AP Photo/Louise Delmotte
By Aleksandar Brezar
Published on Updated
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The judicial probe, which began last week, will investigate allegations of accepting a financial loan, misappropriation of property, fraud and forgery.

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French criminal prosecutors have launched a preliminary inquiry into alleged illegality in the financing of Marine Le Pen's 2022 presidential campaign, the Paris prosecutor's office said on Tuesday.

The judicial probe, which began last week, will investigate allegations of accepting a financial loan, misappropriation of property, fraud, and forgery.

The investigation was opened after the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Political Financing submitted a review of Le Pen's campaign financing and alerted the authorities about its findings, domestic media reported.

Le Pen invested around €11.5 million in her 2022 presidential bid — her third run for France's highest office, and the second she lost to President Emmanuel Macron.

Troubles with cash flow

One of the main figures of the far-right National Rally party (RN), Le Pen is no stranger to allegations of financial malfeasance.

She is already facing embezzlement charges stemming from claims that she and 26 other party members set up a fake jobs scheme at the European Parliament to finance RN activities in France.

If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison and a prohibition from running for public office.

Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of RN under its original name, the National Front, is also among the accused.

French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin, 24 March 2017
French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in the Kremlin, 24 March 2017AP Photo/Mikhail Klimentyev

In 2020, RN had to reach a court settlement with a Russian company to clear its outstanding loan debt going back to 2014.

The party, believed to be heavily in debt at the time, took out a €9.4m loan from the relatively unknown First Czech Russian Bank — owned by the firm of a billionaire friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Gennady Timchenko — ahead of Le Pen's 2017 presidential run.

Although the loan deal was not public at first, an investigation by French outlet Mediapart exposed the arrangement, triggering a hail of criticism and allegations that Le Pen and RN were under the Kremlin's influence.

After the First Czech Russian Bank lost its licence, a Russian aeroplane parts company, Aviazapchast, took over the loan, then brought charges against Le Pen's party in front of the Moscow Arbitration Court.

Le Pen claimed at the time that she had reached out to a Russian bank because Western banks had refused to give her loans, accusing them of discrimination.

After she lost the 2017 presidential race — also to Macron — two French banks shut down accounts belonging to Le Pen and RN.

Le Pen, a self-professed admirer of Putin, has urged the West in the past to withdraw its sanctions against Moscow for its partial invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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She has softened her stance since, saying the only issue she had with Macron's staunch support of Kyiv against Moscow's ongoing full-scale invasion was that she would not allow France to become a belligerent in the conflict.

RN leader Jordan Bardella has also been largely supportive of Ukraine in the run-up to the French snap legislative elections earlier this month, saying he was ready to confront the Kremlin if he became PM and pledged he would not allow Moscow to "consume Ukraine".

However, he has since been appointed president of the freshly formed Patriots for Europe group at the European Parliament.

Founded by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the Freedom Party of Austria's Herbert Kickl and Czech ANO leader Andrej Babiš, the far-right group — now the parliament's third-largest — is expected to take a largely pro-Russian line.

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Additional sources • AP

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