Geopolitics

Our Identity Is At Stake, The Marine Le Pen Interview

After Trump and Brexit surprise victories with the support of disenchanted voters, the populist right-wing candidate in France is feeling supremely confident.

Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen
Anne Rovan*

PARIS — The final sprint is on in France, with five days to go until the first round of voting in presidential elections with an extra dose of global significance. Marine Le Pen, head of the ring-wing populist National Front (FN) party, is at or near the top of polls alongside centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, with conservative former Prime Minister François Fillon and leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon close behind. The top two finishers Sunday will compete in a run-off round of voting on May 7. With the world still feeling the aftermath of surprise victories last year by Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum, there are ruminations that this election too could wind up seeing a majority of disillusioned voters choosing Le Pen.

Le Figaro sat down with Le Pen to discuss the end of the euro in France, Muslim voters, and her recipe to respond to globalization.

LE FIGARO: You are proposing leaving the euro single currency. The majority of French voters say they don't want this. What would you say to them?

MARINE LE PEN: I would first tell them that I am the only one who will ask them their opinion on the European Union, through a referendum. Once elected, I shall immediately begin negotiations. I shall ask for a meeting of heads of states, without the participation of EU bodies. Many European countries in the South and the East are waiting for France, a great and powerful country, to take the lead in forcing the EU to come to the negotiating table. I would also tell the French that leaving the euro will have no effect on their savings. On the contrary, the big danger for them is the current situation of a banking union linked to the euro, which means dipping into people's savings when there is a financial crisis. The French are overwhelmingly convinced that the euro is a burden. Returning to an adapted national currency will create millions of jobs and give us back our freedom.

If you are elected, interest rates will shoot up the day after.

No! There will be no sudden panic. I cannot stand it when the French are asked in all circumstances to make sacrifices before the state cuts back on its own wasteful expenditures.

But couldn't the markets still judge an increased risk for France?

You can make a thousand different hypotheses. Most are false. We saw the same thing with Brexit: apocalyptic predictions that sought to frighten voters, but which the facts then disproved.

How do you fight fundamentalism?

We need to implement certain measures immediately: like deporting foreigners in the (at-risk) S category, rescinding the memorandum of the current government on regularizing aliens, a moratorium on issuing certain certificates, freeze loans and state medical assistance to asylum seekers ... I also want to organize, as of September, a referendum to revise the Constitution to restore the authority of the new law on previous European treaties. We have to recover the initiative.

This is a referendum for or against unbridled globalization.

Do you not fear provoking the hostility of France's Muslims?

Not at all. If there is one thing French Muslims want, it is to be rid of the daily pressures imposed on them by Islamic fundamentalists.

The National Front's ideas are gaining ground, but strong hostilities remain, notably among senior civil servants. There was also the attempted arson outside your headquarters recently.

A sector of the extreme and non-democratic Left uses violence to express its refusal to submit to the will of the people. And if one or two diplomats don't want to continue working, well, they're welcome to leave.

The State of Israel, which hardly espouses far Left ideas, has strongly criticized your statements on the Vél d'Hiv Roundup of French Jews during World War II ...

The state of Israel is misled by what some supposedly representatives groups have said about me –– which are vile, baseless allegations.

Do you think France was better off before?

France will be better off tomorrow, if I am elected. This presidential race is virtually a referendum for or against unbridled globalization. Our values, codes, customs and lifestyle are being dissolved. When a country loses its identity, it no longer knows what it is or where it comes from, and what its real worth is. So it dissolves. I want to write into the constitution the idea of defending and promoting France's historical and cultural heritage, and give back to our country the status of a political power. That will be the launching pad for us to conquer the world anew! Yes, I for one want to set off to conquer the world! Relaunch ties with Africa, defend the French language abroad.

At a Le Pen rally on April 17 –– Photo: Official Facebook page

So you have a vision of France that is quite globalized.

You're mistaken. Globalization aims to wipe away borders in all areas. It is the elimination of frontiers, the disappearances of roots ... I am a candidate of limits and I shall be the president of limits. They are necessary at school to restore authority, to implement justice, against unhindered globalization and unfair international competition, and against abuses or excesses in tax evasion. There is no freedom without limits.

Some elements of your program appear very much left-wing, and others right-wing. How would you find a ruling majority?

I don't believe in the Left-Right divide. It is artificially maintained by those who wish to hold on to power. The real divide is between patriots and globalizers. On my side of the shore –– where the French nation is –– there are political officials I would sincerely like to have on our side, before the elections, between the first and second rounds or afterwards. I extend my hand to all those who hold dear our nation's sovereignty and identity.

Which candidate would you like to face in the second round?

Mr. Macron is unashamedly in favor of globalization, unlike Mr Fillon who is ashamed of the fact that he holds the same ideas. I would always prefer to face an open supporter of globalization. At least it makes things clear.

The mainstream left and right could always obstruct your election.

If we see a coalition of the Republicans and Socialists in the second round, a big globalizing party will come out of it, which at least will clarify things! The stakes of these presidential elections are civilization itself. The French sense it. And if Mr Fillon were to urge them to vote for Mr Macron, I am not so sure most of his voters would do as he says.

How do you feel just before this first round?

Calm and confident. I am confident of my team and trust the French people.



*Le Figaro journalists Fabrice Nodé-Langlois, Marc de Boni, Cécile Crouzel and Emmanuel Galiero also took part in this interview.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ