Latvian allegedly helped Le Pen’s Party obtain Russian Loan

A Latvian-based consultant, who has managed the offshores of Russian politicians, has met with at least two high-ranking officials of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to discuss her party’s options for a Russian loan, media said Tuesday.

Marine Le Pen 1Marine Le Pen (Photo: Emmanuel d'Aubignosc, CC BY 3.0)Vilis Dambiņš, who manages assets on behalf of President Vladimir Putin’s assistant, Alexander Babakov, met with European Parliament member Jean-Luc Schaffhauser last March to discuss possibilities for Marine Le Pen’s Front National (FN) to borrow money from a Russian bank, a joint investigation by OCCRP’s partner, the Baltic center of investigative journalism Re:Baltica and French online investigative journal Mediapart revealed.

Schaffhauser and Babakov were key figures in helping FN obtain its first €9.4 million (US$ 10.3 million) loan from the First Czech Russian Bank (FCRB) which went bust in the summer of 2016. Bloomberg reported that the party was left struggling to find another €20 million ($US 21.8 million) to fund Le Pen’s campaign.

Dambiņš proposed the Moscow-based Strategy Bank and several others during meetings, the journalists said.

Re:Baltica and Mediapart published FN documents showing that last June the party decided to borrow three million euros (US$ 3.27 million) “to finance election campaigns” from Strategy Bank.

The bank lost its license a month later but sources say that after the collapse of Strategy Bank, discussions about a loan began with another Russian bank, NKB which also lost its license in December 2016.

FN treasurer Wallerand de Saint-Just was the second politician to meet with Dambiņš a few months later. He told Mediapart that the Strategy Bank loan was planned but never happened and hung up the phone after questions about NKB.

Dambiņš declined an interview request from Re:Baltica. In an e-mailed answer he denied helping FN obtain loans from Russian banks and representing Babakov. Emails requesting comment from Babakov remain unanswered.

Dambiņš’ statements contradict findings in the The Panama Papers, a year-long investigation into offshore tax havens, which revealed that his firm V.D. Nominees Limited was managing AED International Ltd, a company registered under Babakov’s name.