Arrived in a dark suit and tie at the criminal court, the former coach of the Blues (2000-2007) is notably suspected of having, against payment, granted in 2017 to the construction group of Mr. Altrad the first jersey sponsorship contract of the history of the XV of France.

Judged until September 22 with four other defendants, the strong man of tricolor rugby, aged 58, will have to answer in particular for “passive corruption” and “illegal taking of interests”, in a very scrutinized trial a year from the World Cup organized by France.

The debates will also focus on the favors which the Montpellier Hérault Rugby club, reigning French champion and property of Mr. Altrad, would have benefited from and which the French Rugby Federation (FFR), including vice-president Serge Simon, would have granted him. is also continued.

Claude Atcher, recently suspended from his duties as general manager of the 2023 World Cup, will appear for “concealment of breach of trust” in another aspect of this affair which has shaken the world of ovality for five years.

Renowned for his loud talk, Mr. Laporte, former Secretary of State for Sports Nicolas Sarkozy, promises to fight “perfectly artificial grievances”, assured before the trial his lawyer, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi.

The friendship and business ties of Bernard Laporte and Mohed Altrad form the heart of this multi-pronged investigation, supervised by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF).

In February 2017, the two men signed a contract under which Bernard Laporte, who had just become president of the FFR, agreed to participate in communication operations for the Altrad group and ceded his image rights to it, in return 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 boss of French rugby intervened several times in support of Mr. Altrad, arousing the suspicions of the executive who took legal action at the end of 2017.

In March 2017, Bernard Laporte thus signed, on behalf of the FFR but without notifying its marketing division, a contract for 1.8 million euros which made Altrad the jersey sponsor of the Blues.

The name of the group still appears there today under another contract of 35 million euros concluded in January 2018, still under the auspices of Mr. Laporte, in which the PNF sees the mark of corruption.

Other interventions made the investigators wince.

In June 2017, Mr. Laporte made contact with the Federal Disciplinary Committee which imposed on appeal on the Montpellier club a fine of 70,000 euros which will, after this phone call, be reduced to 20,000 euros.

– Elevator referrals –

In March 2017, Mr Laporte and his federation also opposed the National Rugby League’s decision to postpone two Top 14 matches. One of them was to be played by Montpellier, a postponement to which Mr Altrad was notoriously opposite.

Behind these interventions, the PNF detects illicit elevator referrals when Mr. Laporte’s defense denounces “false causal links” and recalls that he waived his contract with Mr. Altrad in the summer of 2017, after the first revelations in the press.

“There has never been a pattern of corruption and everyone has acted in accordance with their duties”, also supports Me Antoine Vey, counsel for Mohed Altrad, castigating one of the “intellectual constructions” of the PNF.

The trial will also look at Claude Atcher’s links with the FFR in 2017-2018, when his company Sport XV was entrusted with four missions in connection with the French bid for the 2023 World Cup.

According to the prosecution, one of them, valued at 21,000 euros, was never carried out, which will not prevent Mr. Laporte from granting Sport XV a bonus of 30,000 euros, causing damage in total. for the FFR valued at 80,400 euros.

According to his lawyer Me Céline Lasek, Claude Atcher was “parachuted in this case, without foundation or justification”.