The strong man of rugby in front of the judges. Bernard Laporte, powerful capo of the French Federation (FFR), appears in Paris for corruption and influence peddling along with other pillars of the oval. 20 minutes reviews the defenders of this case that has shaken French rugby, with the heart of the friendship and business ties between Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad.
Why is Bernard Laporte on trial since this Wednesday?
Summoned at 13:30 before the criminal court, Bernard Laporte is tried for corruption and influence peddling. The former manager of the Blues (2000-2007) is suspected of having favored, for valuable consideration, his friend and co-defendant, the billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad, whose construction group obtained in 2017 the first sponsorship contract for the shirt in the history of XV of France. Montpellier Hérault Rugby, the Top 14 club owned by Mohed Altrad, would also have benefited from several favorable decisions, through Bernard Laporte, who will have to answer for passive corruption, illegal taking of interests and passive influence peddling.
Who else is judged and why?
Claude Atcher, recently suspended from his duties as CEO of the 2023 World Cup, and FFR vice president Serge Simon are also among the five defendants who will parade in command until September 22. The trial will look at Claude Atcher’s links to the FFR in 2017-2018, when his company Sport XV was entrusted with four missions, mainly in relation to the French bid for the 2023 World Cup. According to the prosecution, theirs (government councils valued at 21,000 euros) has never been carried out, which will not prevent Bernard Laporte from granting Sport XV a bonus of 30,000 euros. In total, the damages for the FFR will be assessed by the investigators at 80,400 euros. According to his lawyer, Céline Lasek, Claude Atcher was “parachuted into this case, without foundation or justification.”
What motivated the investigators of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office?
In February 2017, Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad signed a contract under which Bernard Laporte, who had just become president of the FFR, agreed to participate in the communication operations of the Altrad group and gave up his right to the image. All in exchange for compensation of 180,000 euros. Problem, according to the prosecution: the sum is paid in 2017 but the contract will never be executed. At the same time, during this period, the French rugby boss intervened on several occasions in support of Mohed Altrad, which aroused the suspicions of the Executive, which initiated legal action at the end of 2017.
Thus, in March 2017, Bernard Laporte signed, on behalf of the FFR, but without notifying its marketing department, a first contract of 1.8 million euros that made Altrad the Blues’ shirt sponsor. The group’s name still appears there today under another €35 million contract concluded in January 2018, still under the auspices of Bernard Laporte, in which the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) sees the mark of a corruption.
But that is not all. In June 2017, Bernard Laporte joined the Federal Disciplinary Commission which fined the Montpellier club €70,000 on appeal. After this phone call, the penalty will be reduced to 20,000 euros. In March 2017, Bernard Laporte and his federation also opposed the decision of the National Rugby League, in charge of the professional sector, to postpone two Top 14 matches, one of which was to be played by Montpellier, a postponement to which Mohed Altrad was forced. conspicuously opposite. Imprisoned, the Council of State will question “the legality” of the FFR’s decision.
What is Bernard Laporte’s defense?
Behind these multiple interventions, the PNF sees illicit references to the elevator when the defense denounces “false causal links” and recalls that Bernard Laporte resigned from his contract with Mohed Altrad in the summer of 2017, after initial revelations in the rush. “There has never been a pattern of corruption and everyone has acted in accordance with their duties,” says Me Antoine Vey, Mohed Altrad’s lawyer, who criticizes an “archive of nothing at all” and based on “intellectual constructions.”
Recognized for his candor, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former Secretary of State for Sports has promised to fight “perfectly artificial grievances” and show that he has always acted “in the interest of the federation,” says his lawyer, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi.
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