The beginning of the end of a long soap opera. This Wednesday, September 7, opens the trial of Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad for suspicion of favoritism. Here are five questions to understand a case that started more than four years ago, and which leaves a heavy climate in French rugby, one year from the World Cup.
1. Who are the defendants?
The great pundits of French rugby are at the helm from this Wednesday, September 7 and will be judged for a fortnight. Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad are the two protagonists put forward in this case of favoritism, but they are five defendants in total.
Bernard Laporte (58) has been the president of the French Rugby Federation since 2016. In the sights of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office since January 2018 and the start of the case, he was nevertheless elected for a second term in October 2020. Former rugby player rugby and the France team, manager in various rugby clubs and coach of the XV of France (2000-2007), Laporte was also Secretary of State in charge of Sports (2007-2009) under the government of François Fillon.
Mohed Altrad (71), before becoming president of Montpellier Hérault Rugby in 2011, was above all a businessman. He is the boss of the Altrad group, a giant construction company. In 2015, he received the title of entrepreneur of the year. His atypical career, he retraces it in several books. In 2020, he ran for the municipal election of Montpellier to oppose Philippe Saurel.
To a lesser extent, and for fewer counts, Serge Simon is also involved in this affair. Friend of Bernard Laporte, the former pillar (55 years old) has been vice-president of the FFR since 2016. He is also a general practitioner.
Claude Atcher, in the news in recent weeks after his layoff from the management of the 2023 World Cup, is also a former rugby player and businessman. In recent years, he has multiplied roles in the organization of sporting events. His long-time partner Benedict Roverformer managing director of Score XV, is the fifth defendant.
2. What are they accused of?
Pour Bernard Laportethe heads of prevention are numerous: illegal taking of interests, passive influence peddling by a public official, passive corruption by a public official, concealment of misuse of corporate assets, breach of trust, abuse of corporate assets.
Mohed Altrad : active influence peddling, active corruption, abuse of corporate assets.
Serge Simon : illegal taking of interests.
Claude Atcher : concealment of breach of trust committed by Bernard Laporte to the detriment of the FFR, abuse of company assets in the management of the company Score XV for the exclusive benefit of Claude Atcher, concealed work by concealment of activity (lack of tax and social declarations ) since 2016.
3. Why did the case take so long to go to trial?
The Laporte-Altrad trial will last two weeks, from September 7 to 22. It will start more than four and a half years after the search by investigators of the Economic Crime Repression Brigade (BRDE), seized by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, at the home of Mohed Altrad or in the offices of the FFR. A search that took place on January 23, 2018, marking the starting point of the investigation. Four years later to the day, the BRDE report revealed several incriminating elements against the five men.
4. What are the defendants at risk of?
The cases are different in this trial, given the charges of each. Bernard Laporte risks a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of €375,000. Note that “organized gang scam”, an aggravating factor in this type of case, was not retained.
Barring an appeal, which is very likely according to the verdict, the court’s decision is expected at the end of October.
5. What consequences?
This is the question mark. In the event of a sanction, will the president of the French Rugby Federation resign from his duties? Can he legally stay in the event of a heavy sentence? What about Mohed Altrad with Montpellier Hérault Rugby? Internally, in Montpellier, we prefer to focus on the athlete. “We are in solidarity with our president,” said Philippe Saint-André, sports director of the club. Wait and see…
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