First twist in the Laporte-Altrad trial: the defense requests “the dismissal of the hearing”

First twist in the Laporte-Altrad trial: the defense requests "the dismissal of the hearing"

The “Laporte trial” opened Wednesday afternoon at the Paris Criminal Court. But the defense of the five defendants, who demand access to parts of the file of which they have been deprived so far, asked the court to dismiss the hearing.

At the Paris Criminal Court, a vast brand new liner nestled in the west of the capital, courtroom 212 is perched on the second floor. Around twenty journalists from all walks of life are gathered there today, magistrates, the supposed victims (the Anticor association, the National Rugby League, the FFR, the Urssaf Languedoc-Roussillon), a witness (the general manager of the FFR Laurent Gabannini), a handful of lawyers as well as the five defendants in the case before us: Bernard Laporte, Mohed Altrad, Serge Simon, Claude Atcher and his former right-hand man at Score XV, Benoit Rover.

It is therefore there that opened, Wednesday afternoon, what it is agreed to call the Laporte trial and which will end (in theory) on September 22nd. At the start of the hearing, President Rose-Marie Hunault first asked the five defendants, all major players in French and international rugby, to confirm their identity, before presenting the charges at length to each other: “Concealment of abuse of corporate assets” for Claude Atcher, “passive corruption” for Bernard Laporte, “illegal taking of interests” for Serge Simon or “active influence peddling” for Mohed Altrad. It was then that the first twist of the audience occurred.

Was the PNF approximate?

Following the usual presentations, the lawyers of Claude Atcher and Benoit Rover therefore formulated a first request for the cancellation of the citations of their two clients. “Madam President, said Master Celine Lasek, I ask you to purely and simply cancel the summons of Claude Atcher. Why is he being prosecuted? What are the charges against him? I spent days making calculations but the sum advanced by the national financial prosecutor’s office (of 80,400 euros, relating to a bonus without cause paid by the FFR, editor’s note) does not correspond to anything. My client is also accused of personal costs “unforeseen: but how many costs, in the fair? And not foreseen by what or by whom? When you summon someone to the bar of a court, the summons must have the precision of the blade of a knife and it is not the case”. Brice Grazzini, Benoît Rover’s lawyer, thus supported the referral of the hearing. “How can one, after four years of investigation, write such incomprehensible lawsuits?”

Put on the ropes by the defense lawyers, François-Xavier Dulin, the financial public prosecutor in charge of the investigation, immediately counterattacked: “With Score XV (the company of Claude Atcher and Benoit Rover), we never has anything and you never know anything! There is no tax or social declaration (in 2016 and 2017, editor’s note), nothing! This company is a ghost and it is not possible in a declarative system like France! You are now asking me about the costs subject to the reproach? I answer you this: Mr. Atcher’s entire life is taken up by the company Score XV: the crèche, the rent and the rest… Score XV and Claude Atcher, it’s the same pocket!”

The defense demands “the fadettes”

United in the face of an accusation made up of two magistrates from the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, the ten defense lawyers were surprised at not having had access to certain documents in the file. In reality, it was here a question of fadettes (detailed records of telephone communications) on which the police officers of the BRDE (Brigade for the Repression of Economic Crime) had relied to advance in their research.

Antoine Vey, Mohed Altrad’s lawyer, explained: “I am asking to be able to access the fadettes which have allowed the investigators to progress in their investigation. Until then, we have only had access to an Excel table having no value”. Then addressing the deputy prosecutor François-Xavier Dulin: “You refer people to court on data that you have not seen”. To which added Fanny Colin, one of Bernard Laporte’s lawyers: “If these fadettes do not exist, we will ask for the nullity of the minutes based on them. The table and the software of which the financial prosecutor’s office speaks are not enough. We want the raw data, that’s all”.

Possible dismissal?

After deliberating for an hour, President Rose-Marie Hunault decided to suspend the hearing around 6 p.m., gave an appointment to the defendants the next day (1:30 p.m.) for the continuation of the proceedings, while asking the national financial prosecutor’s office to provide the fadettes in question to the file as soon as possible. But what would happen if these were not ultimately provided? The minutes based on communications between the defendants would possibly be withdrawn from the procedure and with them, it would be the whole section devoted to the section of the disciplinary committee (Bernard Laporte is suspected of having put pressure on it to favor Montpellier and Mohed Altrad) who would collapse with it.

Could the trial be postponed in its entirety? Impossible to say at the moment. But one thing is certain: these debates promise to be fierce, long and complex…

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