This supposed scoop ended up looking more like a dud. On May 3rd, just before the Emmanuel Macron vs Marine Le Pen debate ahead of the second round, a person posted documents on an English-speaking forum supposedly offering “proof” of an offshore account opened by the En Marche! candidate. Marine Le Pen appears to have referred to this rumor during the debate by saying: “I hope that we will not learn that you had an offshore account in the Bahamas“. The trajectory of the rumor’s propagation as well as incoherencies in the posted documents would suggest that the accusation is “fake”.
On May 4th the Paris’ prosecution service opened a preliminary investigation into “fake news aimed at diverting votes; fakes, the usage of fakes, and concealment of fakes“, following Emmanuel Macron’s complaint against the circulation of the aforementioned documents on the internet.
The rumor’s origin already raises doubts regarding the authenticity of these alleged pieces of evidence. As The Huffington Post states, the rumor first appeared on the discussion forum 4chan, attracting pro-Trump activists in particular. A forum user posted two documents: a contract for the opening of an account in the tax haven of Saint Kitts and Nevis dating from 2012, and a 2015-dated fax linking this account and a group in the Cayman Islands, another Caribbean tax haven. The goal is clearly stated: “If we can get #MacronCacheCash” (#MacronHidesCash”) trending in France for the debates tonight, it might discourage French voters from voting Macron”.
On the morning of May 4th Macron’s team published a detailed denial of this rumor, before lodging an official complaint.
Several elements in the documents raise questions, from the opening date of the account (May 4th, 2012, the day before François Hollande became president), to Emmanuel Macron’s signature which differs from the one used in the program En Marche!, notably in the letter “M” of Macron.
Signature in the supposed contract Signature in the En Marche! program
According to an offshore contracts’ specialist who asked to remain anonymous, “these types of documents are never signed by the person concerned; it is precisely the aim of these kinds of deposits: to remain anonymous”.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting local financial authorities, states that no firm by the name of La Providence has been registered in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Moreover, there are numerous errors in the current contact information of First Caribbean bank. In the 2015 fax the website’s URL address is not the correct one, and the postal code and fax number do not match either.
Furthermore, a technical analysis of the two documents shows that they were scanned on the morning of May 3rd. A piece of software which enables the extraction of images from a PDF file strengthens the suspicion that the signature page of the contract and fax were edited. In both cases the software extracts three images when it should only extract one if the document was authentic.
On May 5th, a user claiming to be the source of the document leak republished them in better quality on the 4chan.org forum.