Auteur: Andrew Rettman
BRUSSELS - A former KGB officer lent €2 million to Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of the National Front, on top of other Russian loans to the French far-right party, Mediapart reports.
The Paris-based online news agency said on Saturday (29 November) the money was wired by a Cypriot firm, Vernosia Holdings, via an account at Swiss bank Julius Baer, to Le Pen’s company, Cotelec, on 18 April.
It says the owner of Vernosia is Yuri Kudimov, who used to be an officer in the KGB, the Russian intelligence service which was later renamed the FSB, and who was, until October, also the director of VEB Capital, a state-owned Russian bank.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 86-year old father of the current National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, is still the party’s honorary president and an MEP.
He uses Cotelec as a mini-bank to collect party donations and to lend money to National Front members.
Le Pen senior told Mediapart the €2 million “loan” was agreed on 4 April and was “declared to the French administration under normal conditions”.
He added that it was negotiated via “intermediaries” and that he had no knowledge of Kudimov’s role in the process.
“What I know is that it [Vernosia] is a Cypriot company … That there are Russians in Cyprus is possible. What would be surprising or abnormal about that?”, he said.
“I did business with a firm which is called Vernosia Holdings Ltd, which offered to lend me money. How it gets the funds, doesn’t concern me … I didn’t make an enquiry into the ins and outs of the people who lent me the money”.
Mediapart earlier reported that another Kremlin-linked lender, the First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB), in a separate deal loaned the National Front €9 million.
It added that the €9 million is part of a €40 million FCRB package designed to help the party contest the 2017 elections in France.
Marine Le Pen admitted receiving the €9 million, but said the €40 million credit is “a total fantasy”.
The Mediapart revelations come amid reports by German tabloid Bild the Kremlin is financing the eurospcetic AfD party in Germany using below market price gold.
AfD has denied any knowledge of the scheme.
Hungarian and Latvian authorities are also investigating accusations the far-right Jobbik party and the pro-Russia Latvijas Krievu savieniba party received illicit Russian funds.
The National Front, Jobbik, Latvijas Krievu savieniba, and other far-right European parties - including Austria’s FPO and Bulgaria’s Ataka - speak out in support of Russia at home and in Brussels.
They systematically vote against Russia-critical motions in the European Parliament.
They also sent “monitors” to legitimise separatist votes in Russia-occupied Crimea and Donetsk earlier this year.
The Italian and Belgian rightist parties Forza Italia, Lega Nord, and Vlaams Belang, as well as two anti-EU far-left parties - Germany’s Die Linke and Greece’s KKE - also sent monitors.