On the Kremlin’s payroll. Family business of the Le Pen clan

Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the National Rally (French: Rassemblement national, abbreviated RN), formerly known as the National Front (French: Front National, abbreviated FN), a French far-right political party, in 1972. It is based on far-right ideology, populism, and euroscepticism.

Most political observers consider the RN to be far-right. In fact, it is not just a party of the chiefly type, where the leader gathers around him obedient minions and ideological far-rights; in the case of the “National Rally,” it is a party of family dominance. Why is this the case? Let’s examine this organization in more detail.

On November 5, 2022, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella officially became the president of the RN party. For the first time, a non-Le Pen family member led the party. In fact, he only became head of the party because Marine Le Pen announced that she would resign as party chairman to lead the parliamentary faction, meaning that Marine Le Pen was still the de facto head of the party. One of Marine Le Pen’s nieces is Jordan’s wife, indicating respect for family (nepotic) ties.

Jordan Bardella is married to Nolwenn Olivier from 2020 to 2024. She is the daughter of Marie-Caroline Le Pen, the elder sister of Marine Le Pen, and Philippe Olivier. As a result, the Rassemblement National accuses him of favoritism for his closeness to the Le Pen family.

The party is characterized by anti-European, pro-Russian, and far-right rhetoric, as well as anti-migrant and nationalist views, and excludes the European Union’s expansion. Marine Le Pen is constantly harsh on France’s policy on immigration, so much so that the European Parliament accused Marine of “incitement to racial hatred” and deprived her of parliamentary immunity.

Marine Le Pen has spent almost her entire political career expressing her admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and his policies. Her party’s main foreign policy goal is to end the existence of the EU and NATO and replace them with a “partnership of independent countries,” which is in line with the Kremlin’s narrative. They argue that a triple alliance of Berlin, Paris, and Moscow should guide this partnership, which should include Russia.

Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea and unleashing carnage in Donbass. Marine Le Pen’s party, which supported Putin’s actions, faced “intra-French sanctions” against her political party, and notable French banks refused to provide credits to her party. It is important to delve into the details of this case.

The leadership of the National Front had no choice but to turn to foreign banks because of the political association’s financial condition. The Czech-Russian Bank responded to the ultranationalists’ call on November 23, 2014, by providing a 9 million euro loan for the election campaign to the French far-right. However, a journalistic investigation revealed that the total loan amount was 40 million euros. This is because Russian structures, linked to Gennady Timchenko, Putin’s personal banker, own 94.5% of the bank’s shares, with Roman Popov serving as the nominal owner.

In November 2014, Marine Le Pen confirmed that the party had received a €9 million loan from the First Czech-Russian Bank (PCRB) in Moscow for the National Front. In April 2015, a group of hackers published texts and emails between Timur Prokopenko, a member of Putin’s administration, and Konstantin Rykov, a former member of the Russian State Duma with ties to France, who discussed Russian financial aid to the National Front in exchange for support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea. And, oh miracle, they got it.

If anyone thinks the loan story continues, they’re wrong. The Russian Federation’s Central Bank revoked the PCRB’s license in July 2016. However, in March, the Russian car rental company Konti resold the debt, and in November 2016, Aviazapchast JSC, affiliated with the Russian Defense Ministry, received it. Debt assignment is a common practice, but to whom did it go? 

The Russian company Aviazapchast JSC is a Russian foreign trade company specializing in the supply and after-sales service of Russian civil and dual-purpose aircraft abroad, i.e., it is practically a state-owned company; it is also a major supplier to the Syrian Ministry of Defense, whose founders are “retired Russian officers” close to the Russian security services. Aviazapchast has filed a lawsuit in the Moscow arbitration court against the French right-wing party “National Rally” to recover a loan of 9.14 million euros. But there is more to this loan. Outwardly, it seems that everything is simple.

“National Rally” repaid a loan of 6,088,784 euros granted by the Russian company “Aviazapchast” early (60 months ahead of schedule). Why was the loan only 6 million euros instead of 9 million? The same report explained how Le Pen’s party managed to repay the “Russian debt” a full five years early: “thanks to a policy of savings, restructuring of bodies, and renegotiation of contracts, the results of the legislative elections in June 2022, and the accompanying increase in the annual state subsidy to the “National Rally.” 

This is not a case of management miracles, where the party, having fully paid off other debts, suddenly decided to give what it owed to its loyal “business partners” in Moscow. Nothing of the sort happened. A year earlier, in September 2022, Treasurer Pfeffer reported that the party had a debt of “between 22 and 23 million euros.” The treasurer also noted that despite the “austerity course” that the party has adopted since 2020, it sees no other way out but to get money from its supporters through a loan. “We have squeezed out everything we can; we can’t do more. The party is well managed.”

To assess the effect of “squeezing” and “good management,” we note that in January 2021, the party’s debt was in the neighborhood of 24 million euros. 

That is to say, despite all the publicized efforts to cut personnel and lower rent for over a year and a half, the party has only managed to reduce its debt by a mere $1 million. And then suddenly it “repays the loan” of more than $6 million? While there are still five years to go, the party says, “No bank” in France lends money. 

When it is possible not to, where does this sudden desire to “pay back the money” come from? This is how Marine Le Pen herself and her National Rally Party have found themselves in debt to a foreign fatherland that holds her tightly within the bounds of obedience to debt.

This is how the Kremlin “legalizes” and rewards loyal service of its minions in exchange for political support on the international stage, including support for an illegal annexation of Crimea in violation of international law.

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