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"Corruption" in rugby: firm prison required against Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad

The defendants "have damaged the probity surrounding French rugby", estimated the financial prosecutor François-Xavier Dulin after a two-vote indictment, lasting nearly four hours.

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"Corruption" in rugby: firm prison required against Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad

The defendants "have damaged the probity surrounding French rugby", estimated the financial prosecutor François-Xavier Dulin after a two-vote indictment, lasting nearly four hours.

Denouncing "staggering facts", the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF) also called on the Paris Criminal Court to prohibit, for two years and with immediate execution, Mr. Laporte from exercising any function in rugby and Mr. Altrad , CEO of the construction giant of the same name, to manage a trading company. Fines, respectively of 50,000 and 200,000 euros, have been claimed against them.

"Anything that is excessive is insignificant," reacted in his argument one of Mr. Laporte's lawyers, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi.

According to the prosecution, the former coach of the Blues would have made a series of arbitrations favorable to the Altrad group and its owner - including the granting of sponsorship of the XV of France shirt - with whom he had signed a contract of "secret" image which resulted in the payment without compensation of 180,000 euros at the beginning of 2017.

Erected as a "corruption pact" of a public official, this contract constitutes the "original sin" of this file, estimated the financial prosecutor Céline Guillet, evoking its "obscure negotiation conditions" and its "unusual amount".

If Bernard Laporte will not perform any of the services listed in this contract, he will on the other hand carry out, in the weeks following his signature, "atypical interventions" and "problematic" for the benefit of Mr. Altrad, his group or the club of Montpellier rugby (MHR), of which he is the president and owner, believes Ms. Guillet.

"Bernard Laporte was blinded by his private interests with the Altrad group," adds Mr. Dulin.

The prosecution notably returned to the intervention, on June 30, 2017, of Mr. Laporte with the appeal commission of the FFR, statutorily independent, which would have had the effect of alleviating the disciplinary sanctions imposed on the MHR, in particular a fine of 70,000 euros reduced to 20,000 euros after several calls from the president of the FFR.

"This is the most serious fact in this case," said Mr. Dulin, according to whom the "cardinal principles of sport" were then flouted.

-"Not his bedside book"-

The prosecutors also attacked the conditions for granting the sponsorship of the XV of France jersey to the Altrad group, concluded in early 2018 for 6.8 million euros per year, which would not have given rise to a "transparent competition " or to " an impartial procedure.

"Is this how we watch over the interests of the FFR?" Falsely questioned Mr. Dulin, tackling in passing a federation that remained "under the influence of Bernard Laporte", re-elected to his seat. head at the end of 2020.

"The rules were at best ignored, at worst flouted," added Ms. Guillet, who allows herself a touch of irony: "We understood that the code of ethics (of the FFR) was not the bedside book of Mr. Laporte". At the hearing, the president of the FFR admitted "never having read" this document.

Against the vice-president of the federation Serge Simon, the prosecution demanded a year in prison, including six months, for his role in another aspect of the case: the cancellation in March 2017 by the FFR of a postponement of matches decided by the National Rugby League and to which Mr. Altrad was notoriously opposed.

Two years in prison, one of which is suspended, have also been requested against Claude Atcher, recently dismissed from his position as director of the organization of the Mondial-2023, who is suspected of having received unjustified sums from the FFR on the sidelines of the award of this competition to France.

Contested by the defense, the amount of damage caused to the FFR was revised downwards during the indictment, from 80,400 to around 73,000 euros.

"This represents 4,000 rugby balls that we could have given back to the clubs," tried Mr. Dulin, causing a stir on the defense benches.

Continuation and end of pleadings on Wednesday.

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