That these two stories should pop up last week?
When French politician Marine Le Pen needed cash for her far-right party, an obscure Russian bank agreed to help.
Four years later, the bank has gone bust. The owner is facing a warrant for his arrest. Former Russian military officers are demanding money. And the party’s treasurer is sending off some $165,000 every few months to a woman in Moscow, unsure of where the payments ultimately will go.
The money failed to deliver Le Pen the French presidency in last year’s election, denying the Kremlin a powerful ally in the heart of Europe. Instead, the 9.4 million-euro loan, then worth $12.2 million, dragged her party into the shadowy underworld of Russian cross-border finance, putting it in league with people accused of having ties to Russian organized crime, money laundering and military operations.
The mysterious saga of the loan offers a rare look inside the Russian influence engine, demonstrating how people, companies and networks outside the Kremlin pursue President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aims, often without a centralized plan.
This month’s three-page summary D.C. Circuit decision revealed a fairly dry set of legal issues that just might conceal a juicy core. The dry issues involved matters of jurisdiction and statutory interpretation fathomed only by elite appellate lawyers, but the potentially juicier underlying issues hinted of fascination: Somewhere, a corporation (a bank? a communications firm? an energy company?) owned by a foreign state (Russia? Turkey? Ukraine? United Arab Emirates? Saudi Arabia?) had engaged in transactions that had an impact in the United States and on matters involved in the special counsel’s investigation.
Intriguingly, the decision revealed that a regulator from Country A had filed a submission claiming that compliance with the subpoena would cause the Corporation to violate Country A’s law. So whoever Country A is, this matter captured its officials’ attention and prompted them to send filings to a faraway country to block the subpoena. Why does Country A care? And, what is it trying to hide?