Russian bank faces probe over French far-right party loan
The Russian central bank said it had placed under supervision a troubled bank that made a multi-million-euro loan to France's far-right National Front (FN) party in 2014. The First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB) must "present proposals on the conditions to pursue its activities as a bank," the central bank said in a statement. Supervision by the central bank means the regulator puts tight controls on management's actions and keeps a close eye on its books. FCRB had already introduced restrictions on its clients' banking activities, Russian media reported. The bank made headlines in November 2014 after the National Front acknowledged it had received a nine-millioneuro loan ($11 million) from FCRB, but denied reports that the loan was actually to the tune of 40 million euros. FN leader Marine Le Pen explained at the time she had been forced to turn to the Russian bank because French financial institutions had refused to lend her party money.
Le Pen has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin and cultivated a relationship with majority party United Russia, whose senior members participated in an FN congress in 2014. Reports say she is expected to turn to Russian banks again to help finance her 2017 presidential election campaign. Unable to borrow on Western markets due to US and EU sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, Russian banks have found themselves under significant pressure.