The French extreme right party has denounced tax evasion in the European Parliament – but several of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s close contacts have been implicated in the Panama Papers. EURACTIV France reports.
Members of the French National Front (NF) were among the vocal critics of Europe’s failure to tackle tax havens during the European Parliament’s debate on the Panama Papers revelations, insisting they had supported “all proposals relating to tax” at the European level.
Bernard Monot, the party’s chief economist, stressed that “the taxes that states fail to collect have to be picked up by the citizens, at a time when public deficits are so high”.
But this intervention was jumped upon by another French MEP, Jérôme Lavrilleux. The Former member of the French Republican party, who was himself examined as part of the investigation into the funding of Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2012 presidential campaign, criticised Monot for “not having mentioned that certain members of the National Front were implicated in the Panama Papers” and that the extreme right party’s main communication agency also had an account in Panama.
Several people connected to the NF have been implicated by French newspaper Le Monde in the Panama revelations. The communications company Riwal, directed by NF donor Frédéric Chatillon, is suspected of having cheated the French state over the reimbursement of electoral expenses. Through the Panama Papers it emerged that the company had sent money abroad, via a complex circuit involving accounts in Asia and Latin America.
Riwal is currently under investigation by the public authorities in France.
Le Pen’s buried treasure?
Within the NF itself, the party’s founder, who at 87 is also the oldest member of the European Parliament, is also personally implicated in the Panama Papers. He allegedly concealed a portion of his personal wealth in an offshore company under the name of his former butler and right-hand man Gérald Gérin. In total, he is suspected of hiding up to €2.2 million from the French tax authorities since 2015, including €97,000 in banknotes, €854,000 in securities, 26 gold lingots and other pieces of gold.
The Panama Papers have brought the ongoing financial investigations back into the spotlight. Both Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen are currently under investigation by French prosecutors over their declarations of interest to the European Parliament.
Le Pen senior’s declaration, like that of his daughter, the leader of the NF, is anything but detailed. He did not declare any assets or revenue other than his salary as an MEP. And his declaration is not even signed.
France’s High Authority for Transparency in Public Life said it had “serious doubts about the exhaustiveness, accuracy and sincerity of his declarations, based on the evident under-estimation of certain property assets held in common by Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marie Le Pen and, also, the omission of movable assets by Jean-Marie Le Pen.”
The Le Pen family owns property in the suburbs of Paris, which alone raise serious doubts as to the validity of their declarations of interest.