Saturday, January 22

Justice. Crédit Lyonnais arbitration: the Court of Appeal rules on the fate of Bernard Tapie’s five co-defendants

It is a soap opera that has lasted for almost 30 years. After a general acquittal, justice rules this Wednesday on appeal in Paris on the fate of the five co-defendants of Bernard Tapie in the controversial arbitration case of Crédit Lyonnais in 2008, on which suspicions of fraud weigh.

The decision of the court of appeal was initially due on October 6 but it was postponed after the death, three days earlier at the age of 78, of Bernard Tapie, from cancer. For the businessman, the procedure remains with the acquittal pronounced in July 2019: the court of appeal noted the end of the criminal proceedings against him. The general prosecutor’s office had requested five years’ suspended imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 euros against the former minister.

But the court must make a decision eagerly awaited by the five men tried by his side, including the boss of Orange Stéphane Richard against whom the public prosecutor has requested imprisonment and a heavy fine and who plays his future at 60 years. within the operator.

Years of litigation

The case is one part of the titanic dispute that began almost 30 years ago between Bernard Tapie and his historic bank, Crédit Lyonnais, around the resale of sports equipment supplier Adidas in the early 1990s. In 2008 , a private arbitration, supposed to put an end to the procedures, concludes with a “fault” of the ex-public bank and attributes 403 million euros to the ex-boss of Olympique de Marseille, including 45 million for moral damage. The sentence is immediately controversial and will finally be annulled in civil proceedings for “fraud” in 2015. Bernard Tapie is ordered to reimburse. In parallel, a criminal investigation is opened on suspicions of “rigging” of the arbitration in favor of the entrepreneur.

At the end of the first trial, the court cleared Bernard Tapie and his co-defendants, considering that “no element” allows the existence of “fraudulent maneuvers” to be confirmed. The prosecution appealed. In the fall of 2020, a second trial begins, quickly suspended due to the deterioration of Bernard Tapie’s state of health. Hearings resume in spring 2021 in his presence, but end without him, again prevented by illness.

What are the requisitions of the general prosecutor’s office?

This Wednesday, the court of appeal must decide in a case where the prosecution has again requested convictions for a “fraudulent scheme”. The defense pleaded in chorus a new release, ensuring in particular that the scam was “fabricated” and the facts “twisted”. The public prosecutor’s office requested three years of imprisonment, including a firm one and a 100,000 euros fine against Stéphane Richard, at the time chief of staff of the Minister of the Economy Christine Lagarde, tried for complicity in embezzlement of public funds. For not having appealed against the arbitration award, Christine Lagarde was found guilty in 2016 of “negligence” but exempted from punishment by the Court of Justice of the Republic.

The public prosecutor also asked for a three-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 300,000 euros for one of the three arbitrators, now 95 years old, Pierre Estoup, absent from almost all of the two trials for reasons of health. For the historic lawyer of Bernard Tapie, Maurice Lantourne, 65, the advocates general have called for the same sentence, with three years of professional prohibition.

The heaviest sanction was required against Jean-François Rocchi, 66, former head of an entity responsible for managing the liabilities of Crédit Lyonnais: three years’ imprisonment, two of which closed, as well as 100,000 euros fine. Three months suspended and 10,000 euros fine were finally claimed against Bernard Scemama, 78, also at the head of a defeasance structure.

Other ongoing proceedings

In any case, the judgment of the court of appeal will not mark the end of the proceedings in this sprawling case. In order to reimburse the sums collected, commercial justice has been examining for several years the deadlines proposed by the former companies of Bernard Tapie. In April 2020, they were placed in compulsory liquidation – the court of appeal is considering the matter again on December 9.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) was also seized in May, for the first time, of the legality of the sale of Adidas by Crédit Lyonnais.

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