The EU launches a direct assault against Marine Le Pen’s presidential bid

FILE - Former French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a meeting in Avignon, south of France, Thursday, April 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
By John Cody
7 Min Read

In a sign that the European Union has completely abandoned any pretense of respect for the democratic process and the will of a national electorate, OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud office, has accused French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen of embezzlement only days before the final round of the French presidential elections.

According to the report, over a decade ago a group of National Front (NF) politicians embezzled a sum of €600,000, of which Marine Le Pen is personally responsible for €130,000. The news has been published on the French left-leaning website Mediapart, with devastating timing, right between the first and second rounds of the race for the Elysée Palace, which is due to take place on Sunday, April 24.

Regardless of the truth of the accusations, the timing of the publication leaves little doubt about the motives of the attack, and even less about its beneficiary. Given that the allegations go back as far as 2004, it would require a strong amount of credulity for one to believe that a case dating back some 18 years can reach its conclusion only days before its main suspect, who happens to be an Euroskeptic, right-wing politician, is only days away from the first round of the elections (the legal files were handed to French prosecutors in March), standing against a pro-EU candidate, and that the news is revealed a week before the second round. Whether guilty or not, the accused will not have a chance to prove their innocence and rebuild the harm to their reputation within the timeframe of a mere week.

According to the online publication, OLAF also accuses Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father, her ex-partner Louis Aliot, and former (NF) MEP Bruno Gollnisch of the fraud. OLAF is a Directorate General of the European Commission, under the responsibility of the vice-president in charge of Budget and Human Resources. In the past, it has been accused of selective justice and timing its investigations or judgments to hurt those perceived to be the EU’s adversaries, such as in the case of the post-Brexit investigation accusing Britain of a €2 billion import duty scam launched in 2017, undermining the UK’s struggle for independence from the EU.

This was also the method they used to punish the government of Viktor Orbán, when after years of silence over the industrial-scale theft of European funds and grants by the previous Hungarian socialist-liberal-led coalition, investigations were launched after the Orbán government’s succession to power into a massive fraud committed during the construction of a partly EU-funded underground line in Budapest. The investigation found that 167 billion Hungarian forints went missing during the socialist-liberal government, but this sum had to be repaid by the Orbán government. Furthermore, as a result, Hungary has long languished in the bottom-tier of countries as far as the misuse of EU funds is concerned, a ranking that was readily used by liberal media-outlets against the Orbán government.

It seems that OLAF has a switch-on/switch-off button controlled by the European Commission, and it is increasingly used in perfect synchrony with the EU’s ongoing political battles against mostly conservative or Euroskeptic political foes. Yet, the current example undermining the fairness of the French presidential campaign is probably the most brutal and partisan attack on a sovereign country’s democratic process to date.

Le Pen’s lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, has also called into question the timing of the OLAF report, saying, “I’m surprised by the timing of such a strong disclosure” and expressed his “dismay” over the way OLAF was acting. Other members of Le Pen’s election team have also accused the EU of intervening on behalf of their pro-European candidate, Emmanuel Macron.

“Each time she is a candidate, there is a stink ball a few days before the election. It usually comes from elsewhere in the European Union in one way or another,” remarked Laurent Jacobelli, National Rally spokesman. “Twisted blows, lies, verbal abuse … I think the Macron team is so weak that they are up for anything. The European Union is coming to the aid of its little soldier,” Jacobelli added.

Le Pen’s special advisor, Philippe Olivier, added that “a country where people in power try to criminalize opponents through sheer set-up is called a dictatorship.” Jordan Bardella, the president of the National Rally, has also opined that “the French will not be fooled by the attempts of the European Union and European institutions” to “interfere in the presidential campaign and harm Marine Le Pen.”

Coincidentally, critics of OLAF have accused the organization itself of wasting some €700,000 on prestige projects. According to news reports, OLAF was spending heavily on branded promotional items and luxury office supplies. German MEP Gunnar Beck said: “For a body that’s supposed to investigate fraud in EU spending, you’d expect them to treat taxpayers’ money with much more respect. It’s one thing to need new office supplies, but to put out a tender to purchase branded oven gloves, kitchen aprons and bronze medals for staff is completely outrageous and a flagrant waste of people’s money. Is it any wonder Brexit happened and Euroskepticism is on the rise across Europe when Eurocrats squander money in this way?” asked the German politician.

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