Marine Le Pen defended herself Wednesday in the National Assembly of any "Russian tropism", ensuring that she would never have signed the loan contracted in Russia by her party if it had committed her to "anything". with Vladimir Putin.
The former president of the National Rally (RN) is heard by the parliamentary commission of inquiry into foreign interference.
At the center of the discussions, a loan of 9.4 million euros contracted with a Czech-Russian bank in 2014 by the former FN, then led by Marine Le Pen. And a question: did it give rise to any political pressure or quid pro quo?
"If that had committed me to anything, I would not have signed," said the leader of the National Rally before the commission. "It was that or the death" of the party, in great financial difficulty.
"We have nothing to reproach ourselves with in this affair. This loan is perfectly legal, perfectly verified," she insisted.
The summoning of Marine le Pen is on the initiative of the Macronist majority and in particular of the rapporteur of the commission of inquiry, the Renaissance deputy Constance Le Grip.
This Russian loan is at the heart of the attacks carried out by the opponents of the unsuccessful triple presidential candidate, in the first place President Emmanuel Macron, who had estimated that she was talking "to (her) banker when she talks about Russia", during the debate between the two rounds of the presidential election of 2022.
During a hearing before the commission of inquiry 15 days ago, former FN MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser explained that he had been entrusted by Marine Le Pen with negotiations for the party to conclude a loan with Russian banks.
The former MEP, who is also a consultant, explained that after the refusal of "all the Western banks" to grant a loan to the National Front, "we could only find on the Chinese side, Iran, or the Russia: Marine Le Pen considered Russia to be the best".
The loan was finally concluded in 2014. The debt, taken over by various companies following a series of bankruptcies, is still being reimbursed.
Claiming to be a "great connoisseur of Russia", supporter of a "Christian Europe to the Urals", member of Opus Dei, supporter of Bashar El-Assad but destroyer of the United States and Protestantism " based on money", Mr. Schaffhauser had sometimes confused the members of the commission, in the first place Mr. Tanguy, anxious to emphasize that the convictions of his interlocutor were "in opposition" to those of the National Front, which became National Rally.
Jean-Luc Schaffhauser had also admitted during his hearing that he had met Vladimir Poutine, "but in a professional context, not as an elected official", also arguing, in the course of another answer, that "it is obvious that if the power in place (Vladimir Putin, Editor's note) was against it, the deal (of the loan) would not have been done".
But he denied any "compensation", saying that "if (he) had felt political pressure, we would have found another solution".
And, when he was asked about the "chance" between "Marine Le Pen's position in favor of the Russian annexation of Crimea, and, a few weeks later, the fact that there was a loan that comes true", Mr. Schaffhauser had evaded, arguing that Ms. Le Pen "knew his story".
The commission of inquiry was launched by the RN group in the Assembly at the end of 2022, precisely to try to cut short the accusations that the far-right party was an agent of Russian influence in France. The other camps denounce a "diversion" of the National Rally.
It is chaired by RN deputy Jean-Philippe Tanguy. For the hearing of Ms. Le Pen, the latter delegated the presidency to MoDem deputy Laurent Esquenet-Goxes, one of the vice-presidents of the commission.
The floor will be given to all its members and, time permitting, to two deputies representing the Communist and Liot (independent) groups.
A report is due May 26 and its findings officially presented in early June.
24/05/2023 16:13:11 - Paris (AFP) - © 2023 AFP