France opens investigation into 'UAE donations' to Le Pen
The French judiciary has opened an investigation into right-wing populist leader Marie Le Pen, after claims she received millions of dollars in financial support from the UAE during her 2017 election campaign.
According to French investigative journal Media Part, Le Pen's National Rally Party received $8 million in Emirati funding to help finance the far-right group's electoral campaign.
The French media outlet claimed that the UAE joined Russia in the list of foreign powers supporting Le Pen's party, as it attempted to weather severe financial problems during a particularly sensitive time for the party in 2017 - the year of the French presidential elections.
An Emirati financing contract was allegedly signed in the city of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, in June 2017.
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The outlet claimed that a loan to the French party was transferred from a bank in the UAE via an Emirati financial institution.
Le Pen expressed her desire to establish links with Abu Dhabi as far back as 2014 when she told France 24 that France should "seek support from Muslim countries that fight fundamentalism" referring to the UAE and Egypt as potential supporters.
Le Pen is said to have held meetings with UAE representatives at her home in Motretout in July 2014 as well as with Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and other political and religious leaders in May 2015.
In December, she praised Egypt as an ideal model for "fighting radical Islam" in an interview with Egyptian state media.
Le Pen said Cairo's "ability to separate extremist Islam from the religion sets an example to the rest of the world, including France, of how to deal with poisonous ideologies" without targeting the religion, she told Akhbar Elyom.
Once on the fringes of French politics, Le Pen has enlarged her electoral base by appealing to voters outside her party's traditional far-right base.
Some polls suggest the National Front is expected to win the first round of the 2017 presidential elections with 25-30 percent of the vote.