Marine Le Pen claims she is victim of ‘banking fatwa’, after account closures

HSBC and Societe General have both closed accounts connected to France's Front National and its leader in recent weeks

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 22 November 2017 17:31
Marine Le Pen has called for political support from other parties after bank accounts used by the Front National were closed
Marine Le Pen has called for political support from other parties after bank accounts used by the Front National were closed

Far-right French politician Marine Le Pen has accused two banks of launching a “banking fatwa” against her party after they closed accounts used by her and the party she leads.

Ms Le Pen claimed the move was to “silence” the Front National, and also accused the banks of being biased for previously refusing to lend money to the party for campaigns.

The banks have responded to say they acted within regulatory requirements, and that political factors had not been contributing reasons for the closures.

The move comes seven months after the French elections saw Ms Le Pen’s party make historic gains at the ballot box, though it wasn’t enough to win her the presidency.

Emmanuel Macron, leading the newly founded En Marche party, won in a decisive run-off vote, taking 66 per cent of all votes.

“This is an attempt to suffocate an opposition party, and no democrat should accept that,” Ms Le Pen said.

She called on Mr Macron and other political parties to support her and said she would lodge complaints with the banks.

She said HSBC had closed a personal account of hers, while Societe Generale closed her party’s accounts earlier this month.

When the central bank ordered a subsidiary, Credit du Nord, to manage an account for the party, Societe Generale refused to process cheque and credit card payments.

Societe Generale rejected Ms Le Pen’s accusations a “banking fatwa” had been issued against the Front National.

"Decisions to open or close a bank account depend purely on banking reasons ... without taking into account any political consideration," it said in a statement.

In France it is legal for banks to close accounts with advance warning without having to state a reason.

However, access to a bank account is a right, and a customer can ask the Bank of France to designate a bank that would be forced to open one. But the designated bank can choose to limit the use of the account to basic banking services.

The Front National has a long history of struggling to gain financial backing.

In 2014 it came under scrutiny for a 9m euro loan it received from a now-defunct Russian bank.

The party spent 12.5 million euros (£11.9m) on the presidential election alone this year. Party supporters have since been asked to lend it money directly.

At the news conference, Le Pen asked party supporters to react to the account closures.

Hours later, the hashtag “JeQuitteLaSG”, or “I Leave Societe Generale”, was the top trending topic on Twitter in France.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the FN should be allowed to have a bank account and use it normally.

“But I do not know why the bank told its client, the National Front, 'Thank you and goodbye', so I cannot comment on the substance of the case,” he told a weekly news conference.

Reuters contributed to this report

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