Rugby’s strong man in front of the judges. Bernard Laporte, powerful boss of the French Federation (FFR), appeared in Paris for corruption and influence peddling along with other pillars of the oval. 20 minutes looked back at the promoters of this case that shook French rugby, with the heart of the friendship and business relationship between Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad.
Why is Bernard Laporte on trial from this Wednesday?
Called at 1:30 pm before the criminal court, Bernard Laporte was tried for corruption and influence peddling. The former coach of the Blues (2000-2007) is suspected of having, for consideration, favored his friend and co-accused, the multi-billionaire businessman Mohed Altrad, whose construction group won the first sponsorship contract in 2017 jersey in the history of the XV of France. Montpellier Hérault Rugby, the Top 14 club owned by Mohed Altrad, has also benefited from many favorable decisions, through Bernard Laporte, who must answer for passive corruption, illegal acquisition of interests and passive influence peddling.
Who else was judged and why?
Claude Atcher, recently suspended from his duties as general manager of the 2023 World Cup, and the vice-president of the FFR, Serge Simon, are also among the five defendants who will parade at the helm 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, one of them (the management councils worth 21,000 euros) has not been done, which does not prevent Bernard Laporte from giving Sport XV a bonus of 30,000 euros. In total, the damage to 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 made the investigators of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office?
In February 2017, Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad signed a contract under the terms of which Bernard Laporte, who recently became president of FFR, agreed to participate in communications operations for the Altrad group and handed over his image rights. All in return for a fee of 180,000 euros. Problem, according to the prosecution: the amount was paid in 2017 but the contract was never executed. At the same time, during this season, the boss of French rugby intervened several times to support Mohed Altrad, which aroused the suspicions of the executive, who took legal action at the end of 2017.
In March 2017, Bernard Laporte signed, on behalf of FFR, but without announcing its marketing division, a first contract of 1.8 million euros making Altrad the jersey sponsor of the Blues. The name of the group can still be seen there today under another contract of 35 million euros that ended in January 2018, still under the supervision of Bernard Laporte, where the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) found the mark of a corruption.
But that’s not all. In June 2017, Bernard Laporte joined the Federal Disciplinary Commission that imposed a fine of 70,000 euros on the Montpellier club 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, which governs the professional sector, to postpone two Top 14 games, one of which will be played by Montpellier, a -postpone which Mohed Altrad famously opposed. Seized, the Council of State will question “the legality” of the decision of the FFR.
What about Bernard Laporte’s defense?
Behind these many interventions, the PNF saw illegal referrals in the elevator when the defense criticized “false causal links” and recalled that Bernard Laporte waived his contract with Mohed Altrad in the summer of 2017 , after the first revelations of haste. “There has never been a pattern of corruption and everyone acted according to their duties”, continued Me Antoine Vey, Mohed Altrad’s lawyer, rejecting a “file with nothing” and based on “intellectual construction”.
Known for his outspokenness, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former Secretary of State for Sports promised to fight “absolutely artificial complaints” and show that he always acts “in the interest of the federation”. , assured his lawyer, Me Jean-Pierre Versini- Campinchi.