In Depth

Marine Le Pen decries ‘banking fatwa’ as accounts are closed

The French far-right leader is furious after her Front National and personal bank accounts were closed

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National, has claimed she is the victim of a “banking fatwa” after her personal accounts were closed, along with those of her party.

 Le Pen, who lost the presidential run-off to Emmanuel Macron in May, accused “financial oligarchies” of trying to “suffocate” the political opposition and democracy.

HSBC shut down a bank account Le Pen has held for 25 years just a day after Societe Generale, France’s second-largest bank, asked the Front National to close all its accounts after a 30-year relationship.

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

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

“Under French law, banks are allowed to close accounts unilaterally”, so long as they provide notice in advance, says the BBC. HSBC and Societe Generale have neither confirmed nor denied closing the accounts, citing banking confidentiality, according to Reuters.

HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, has in the past been criticised for closing the accounts of small business customers and charities. Its latest decision “comes amid heightened scrutiny of political accounts”, donations and money laundering, says The Guardian.

Reviving an old campaign tactic, Le Pen sought to suggest the banking establishment was trying to “silence the voices” of almost 11 million people who voted for her in May. She pledged to sue both HSBC and Societe Generale for discrimination.

“This isn’t the first time Le Pen’s party has had trouble with banks,” says Politico. According to the BBC, in 2014 the Front National accepted Russian loans of €11m when French banks declined to lend it any money.

It was also refused loans to fund its campaign for the presidency, and has subsequently appealed directly to supporters for loans.

Since it lost the presidential election to Macron, the Front National has been beset by infighting, which culminated in Le Pen’s right-hand man and friend Florian Philippot stepping down as vice president in September.

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