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France: Marine Le Pen: Loans from Russia - Who's funding France's far right? - by Gabriel Gatehouse

Putin and LePen: Is LePen doing her banking in Russia ?
When Marine Le Pen appeared in the Kremlin on 24 March, it was Vladimir Putin himself who gave voice to the thought that was surely on many people's minds:

"I know that the presidential campaign is developing actively in France," the Russian president said, adding: "Of course, we do not want to influence events in any way."

The Russian president appeared to be suppressing a grin as he spoke those words. Marine Le Pen appeared unperturbed.

She repeated her support for Moscow's annexation of Crimea, and her opposition to the sanctions subsequently imposed by the EU. If elected to the Elysee Palace, she pledged: "I would envisage lifting the sanctions quite quickly."

So the meeting was a win for both. Madame Le Pen looked like a world-leader-in-waiting; Mr Putin received assurances from a woman who might become president of France, and who, like him, opposes the EU and Nato.

But there is more to the relationship between Mr Putin and Ms Le Pen than ideological convergence. Because of the National Front's racist and anti-Semitic past, French banks have declined to lend the party money.

So Marine Le Pen has been forced to look elsewhere for financing.

In 2014, the National Front took Russian loans worth €11m (£9.4m). One of the loans, for €9m, came from a small bank, First Czech Russian Bank, with links to the Kremlin.

The loan was brokered by Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, an energy consultant turned MEP, who has called himself "Mr Mission Impossible".

Read more: - by Marine Le Pen: Who's funding France's far right? - BBC News

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