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26 Nov, 2017 02:03

French banks have ‘good reasons’ to close Le Pen party’s accounts, finance minister says

Two banks that have closed accounts belonging to the French National Front apparently had “good reasons” to take such actions, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire insisted after Marine Le Pen blasted the decision as a “banking fatwa.”
French banks have ‘good reasons’ to close Le Pen party’s accounts, finance minister says

The president of the far-right party rebelled this week at a press conference against the decisions taken by Societe Generale and HSBC to end their banking relationship with the National Front, and its leader Le Pen. The National Front president has called the decisions a “banking fatwa” and an “attempted suffocation” of the opposition.

“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 after Societe Generale closed a number of National Front accounts in November, including her own.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Le Pen revealed that HSBC closed her account “without any justification,” only citing the “the lack of information on the origin of funds.” Outraged by the decisions, she urged French politicians, including President Emmanuel Macron, to stand up for the National Front.

In France, banks are allowed to decide to close accounts without giving a reason if they provide the account holders with advance notice. Commenting on their decision, both institutions said that the decisions to shut down accounts were purely financial and not political.

The issue has been taken up by Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Bank of France, who is due to announce a conclusion on the case on Monday, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Saturday, while defending the decisions taken by Societe Generale and HSBC.

“If Société Générale closes the accounts of the National Front, and also I point out that another bank closed the personal account of Marine Le Pen, it’s because it had good reasons to do so,” Le Maire told radio station France Inter. “I trust French banking institutions.”

“My duty as economy and finance minister is to verify that the law has been complied with,” Le Maire said. “I am convinced that the law has been complied with and that these banks had good reasons to take these decisions.”

This isn’t the first time that the National Front has faced financial burdens. During Le Pen’s presidential campaign earlier this year, French banks refused to grant her campaign loans, while the National Front has also been previously forced to borrow from banks outside France.

While the National Front awaited a decision from the Bank of France governor, dozens of party supporters staged a protest in front of Societe Generale’s office in Paris on Saturday. Flying national flags, and holding placards and banner that read, “For the moralization of the banks,” the crowd denounced the financial institution.

“This is absolutely unacceptable in a democracy, and we have no intention of giving in to the banking dictatorship… It is an attack on the democratic life of political parties,” National Front deputy Gilbert Collard said at the gathering. “If it would happen in Russia, we would scream at attacks on liberty for sure. This is happening in France, and everyone is indifferent.”