Le Pen takes HSBC, Societe Generale to court over ‘banking fatwa’

Marine Le Pen, French National Front political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, leaves after rejecting a headscarf for her meeting Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abed el-Lateef Daryan, in Beirut, Lebanon February 21, 2017.
Marine Le Pen, French National Front political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, leaves after rejecting a headscarf for her meeting Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abed el-Lateef Daryan, in Beirut, Lebanon February 21, 2017.

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PARIS, Nov 23 — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen yesterday said she would take banking giants HSBC and Societe Generale to court for discrimination after they moved to close her personal and party accounts.

Le Pen, who lost the presidential election in May to Emmanuel Macron, said her National Front (FN) party was being deliberately cut off from financing as part of a “banking fatwa” against the far-right.

“After being the victim of massive judicial persecution, we are witnessing a new stage in the persecution of the National Front — banishment from banking,” she told a press conference.

Her claim of “judicial persecution” was a reference to the decision by parliament this month to strip her of her immunity from prosecution for tweeting pictures of atrocities by the Islamic State group.

Le Pen said Societe Generale had asked the FN in July to close its accounts, while HSBC’s French boss Thomas Vandeville called her yesterday to announce her personal account was being shut, “without any justification”.

Societe Generale said in a statement that its decisions “on whether to open or close a bank account depend purely on banking reasons”, insisting it did not take “any political consideration” into account.

HSBC France declined to comment, with a spokeswoman saying the bank does not “publicly discuss our relationships with our clients.”

Le Pen became a personal customer there after her bank Hervet was taken over in 2001 by Credit Commercial de France, which is part of HSBC.

‘Suffocation attempt’

Le Pen repeatedly complained during the election campaign that the FN had been refused loans by both French and foreign banks.

The party borrowed €9 million (RM43.17 million) from a Russian bank in 2014, prompting critics to question whether Moscow had influence over the party.

Le Pen said the latest decision by Societe Generale was “depriving a party that won 11 million votes in the last presidential election of all practical ability to function”.

France’s central bank ordered retail bank Credit du Nord — which is itself a subsidiary of Societe Generale — to open an account for the FN after its first bank ditched it.

But party officials say there are now heavy restrictions on its financing.

It is unable to receive donations via its website, and cannot use cheques or withdraw cash except by bank transfer, according to party treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just.

“We are cut off at present from our income. This decision puts the National Front in a position of serious difficulty and prevents the party from functioning normally,” Le Pen said.

“We are witnessing an attempt by the opposition to suffocate us.”

She blasted Societe Generale’s decision as a politically motivated measure against a party which has “tens of millions of members, stable resources and no problems with our accounts whatsoever”.

Le Pen said she had raised her party’s financial problems with Macron during a meeting on Tuesday.

Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said the FN had the right to operate a normal bank account, adding: “There is no question of there being different treatment for different parties.” — AFP

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