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HSBC closes Marine Le Pen bank account

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s Front National, has claimed that she and her party are victims of a “banking fatwa” after HSBC closed a bank account she had had for 25 years. The move by Britain’s biggest bank comes amid heightened scrutiny of political accounts and the day after Société Générale, France’s second-largest bank, asked the far-right party to close all its accounts after a 30-year relationship. Le Pen told a press conference on Wednesday that HSBC had “driven me out”. She said the closure of her and the party’s accounts amounted to a “banking fatwa” against the Front National, which has said it will sue both banks for discrimination.
Le Pen said the closures were a political decision designed to “stop the Front National taking part in democratic life and to cause the conditions of its ruin and collapse”. Banks were trying to “silence the voices” of the almost 11 million people who voted for her in May in the final round of the French presidential election, which she lost to the centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron. “Financial oligarchs are trying to stifle the opposition and interfere in the course of French democracy,” she said. “Will the opposition in France be forced into banking exile? What would become of France’s reputation if that happens?”
HSBC has been criticised for closing the accounts of small business customers and charities. In September, small businesses in the UK – ranging from an avocado importer to marketing and design companies – complained their accounts had been shut by the bank without notice. The banks have not made public their reasons for closing the Front National and Le Pen accounts. HSBC said it could not comment on individuals. SocGen issued a statement saying its decisions on opening and closing accounts were based only on banking issues, and a respect of banking rules, “without any political consideration”.
(Nov 22, 2017) Angelique Chrisafis, Jill Treanor