In a clearly coordinated effort designed to cripple France’s Front National, two major banks— Société Générale, and its subsidiary Crédit du Nord—have closed that party’s major account and refused to grant it any further checking or transaction facilities, while HSBC has closed Marine le Pen’s personal bank account.
Making the announcement at the party’s headquarters today, FN leader Marine le Pen said that a “measure of any democracy is how the political opposition is treated.”
Le Pen said that it is an “objective truth that the Front National is one of the main French political formations, and on several occasions in the past electoral cycle, has come out on top of all political parties.”
She said that the party was already being judicially-persecuted—referring to several ongoing prosecutions launched by the establishment against her personally—and now “we are witnessing a new level of persecution against the FN: a bank ban.”
“With several tens of thousands of members, stable resources and without any incident at all, the Front National was informed of a total ban on banking from the Société Générale, which has been its bank for many years,” Le Pen continued.
She said that the mediator of Société Générale had, ironically, refused to even open a mediation file, informing the party in writing that “in your case, I will not mediate.” This was, Le Pen said, proof that the move was not a dispute of a client with a bank, “but a political decision on the part of the management of Société Générale bank.”
That bank had already announced in January 2013 that it would no longer make loans to the party or any of its candidates, in a clear break with its usual practice of lending to all parties.
After being informed of the bank ban, the FN had activated a previously dormant account it had held for years at the Crédit du Nord bank, which is a subsidiary of Société Générale.
The Crédit du Nord then closed this account, which prompted the party to launch an appeal to the Central bank of France, the Banque de France. This state body—acknowledging French law which says that banking is a right which cannot be denied to citizens—ordered the Crédit du Nord to reactivate the account.
“Obliged to do so, the Crédit du Nord has re-opened the account, but refuses to allow the FN the use of checks and all card transactions” for things such membership fees or donations, Le Pen said.
“Deprived of these revenues, this has put the FN into a major difficulty and prevents any normal functioning of the party,” she continued.
“As we can see, Société Générale and Crédit du Nord are pursuing their militant vindictiveness against the FN with the intention of depriving any practical working capacity to a party that has brought together 11 million French people.”
She pointed out that the party is prevented by the rules of France’s Political Parties Control Commission from working with cash, as part of that body’s anti-corruption laws. “At the same time, we have been deprived of the ability to use checks and cards.”
“Financial oligarchies are trying to undermine freedom of speech, be it journalistic or political, and we are witnessing an attempt to suppress an opposition movement. It is the duty of all Democrats not to accept it.”
Le Pen said it seemed that the “financial oligarchies” who “feel protected or even encouraged by a kind of impunity are being tempted to intervene more and more in the course of democracy in France.”
“Is it acceptable for a bank to decide who has the right to exercise freedom of expression in France?
“What would happen if tomorrow, a bank could decide to ban of a newspaper for revealing offshore company practices or CEO retreats?”
She said that under Article 5 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic must ensure the free exercise of the activity of political parties, as protected by Article 4 of the same Constitution.
She said this banking “fatwa” could one day be applied to any party that the financial oligarchs did not like, and that anyone who supported democracy should oppose this latest action.
She said that the FN was starting legal action against Société Générale, and she was starting action against HSBC for closing her personal account. She became a personal customer at international giant HSBC after her bank Hervet was taken over in 2001 by Credit Commercial de France, which is part of HSBC.
* The CEO of Société Générale is Frédéric Oudéa, who previously worked as Technical Adviser in the office of Nicolas Sarkozy when the latter was France’s Minister of Budget and Communication.