MOSCOW (AFP) — A Russian firm is suing France’s far-right National Rally party, led by Marine Le Pen, for failing to repay a multimillion-dollar loan, court documents show.
Documents filed at the website of Moscow’s Court of Arbitration show that aviation parts company Aviazapchast is suing National Rally for $10.1 million loaned to the party.
The party, which has struggled financially for several years, took out the loan with Russia’s First Czech-Russian Bank in 2014.
The debt-recovery action was filed with the Russian court in December. Le Pen’s party was notified in a Dec. 25 letter, and the first hearing is set for June
The party should have made a single payment of about $10 million in 2019, after interest payments.
Party treasurer Wallerand de Saint Just told Agence France-Presse the party had “good relations” with its creditor Aviazapchast.
Of the loan, he said: “We are in the process of paying it back.”
When news broke of the 2014 loan, it sparked speculation that the Kremlin was backing Le Pen’s party, which is a critic of Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its role in the Ukraine.
In March 2016, the original loan was passed on to Russian car hire firm Konti, shortly before the First Czech-Russian Bank went into administration and eventually shut down in July the same year.
State-owned Deposit Insurance Agency then indicated that the loan had been passed on to Aviazapchast in November 2016.
The National Rally was already in debt in its previous incarnation as the National Front, when it was led by cofounder Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of the current leader. Marine Le Pen took over leadership of the party in 2011.
In 2018, the French authorities withheld $2.2 million of public subsidies normally paid to political parties, pending an inquiry into the alleged misuse of EU funds.
French authorities are also pursuing the party to recover nearly 11.6 million euros in damages and interest for alleged fraud and misuse of public money during the 2012 parliamentary election campaign.
Russian news site Open Media says Aviazapchast has its roots in a Soviet-era company. As well as selling Russian aircraft parts to Asia and Africa, it also sells metals for the aerospace industry to India and Syria.
© Agence France-Presse