Le Pen's loans from Russian Banks take new turn

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The scandal surrounding the loans that French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen allegedly received from Russian banks took a new turn after fresh media reports regarding a third loan provided to far-right politician in 2016 surfaced earlier this week. reports that on Thursday, Mediapart news portal reported that, apart from the two loans she received in 2014, Le Pen asked for money from Russian financial institutions in June 2016. The sum of the loan amounted to $3.2 million and was aimed at "financing [the] French electoral campaign."

The media outlet obtained two internal documents from the National Front (FN) party: the first one, dated June 15, 2016, was an itinerary from a party meeting where a loan form Russia's Strategy Bank was discussed, and the second contained an agreement to transfer the money to Le Pen to cover presidential campaign costs.

Dishonest Move

The reaction from the National Front party came on Friday, when the party's treasurer, Wallerand de Saint-Just, called the publication a "dishonest" and "stupid" move.

"The documents stolen by Mediapart do not prove that there was the third loan. Actually, there was no second, no third loan," Saint-Just said in a statement published on party's website.

He pointed out that the methods of French "media bandits" included stealing and attempting to interpret information incorrectly.

Saint-Just also stressed that complaints regarding the breach of confidentiality would be filed soon.

Russian Money

In 2014, reports claiming that the National Front received a $9.7 million loan from the First Czech Russian Bank emerged in the French media. In June 2015, Le Pen said FN had taken a loan from a Russian bank and refuted claims made by a European Parliament member that her party allegedly received funds from the Russian government.

On March 24, FN Vice-President Florian Philippot said that the party would not accept financial support from any Russian bank for the presidential campaign, adding that the FN had other creditors abroad.

Philippot's statement came during Le Pen's visit to Russia at the invitation of senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky as part of cooperation between State Duma lawmakers and French political circles. During the visit, the presidential hopeful also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the issue of campaign financing was not discussed during Le Pen's meeting with Putin.

Chances to Win

The scandal surrounding Russia's alleged loans to FN had a negative impact on Le Pen's presidential campaign, slightly decreasing her chances both in the first and second rounds of election.

According to recent polls, the FN leader and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron have equal chances of winning the first round of election, while Le Pen is projected to lose against both Macron and The Republicans' candidate Francois Fillon in the run-off.

The first round of presidential election in France is scheduled for April 23, while the run-off is slated for May 7.

2017.03.31 / 21:44
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