“We are going around in circles a bit,” agreed the president of the correctional court Rose-Marie Hunault before prematurely suspending the proceedings shortly before 6:00 p.m.
At the start of the afternoon, the trial, closely scrutinized one year before the Rugby World Cup in France, had however started without a hitch.
Facing the criminal court, a slender silhouette in a black suit and tie, Bernard Laporte, powerful president of the French federation (FFR) and former coach of the Blues, listened without batting an eyelid to the reminder of the six offenses with which he is accused, of “passive corruption to “passive influence peddling”.
The prosecution suspects him in particular of having, against the payment of 180,000 euros, favored his friend and co-defendant Mohed Altrad by entrusting his construction group in 2017 with the first jersey sponsorship contract in the history of the XV of France.
According to the investigation, the Montpellier Hérault Rugby club (MHR), reigning French champion and owned by Mr. Altrad, also benefited from suspicious interventions by the federation.
At the bar, Mr. Altrad detonates: a billionaire born of a rape committed by a tribal chief in Syria, he told the court that he did not know his exact date of birth. “It’s linked to a very special story that I might have the opportunity to tell,” he slips.
At his side appear other figures of the oval: Claude Atcher, recently suspended from his duties as general manager of the 2023 World Cup, and Serge Simon the vice-president of the FFR.
Once the reminder of the facts was over, the trial quickly took an unexpected turn.
– The PNF criticized –
Faced with impassive defendants, the PNF first had to defend itself against repeated attacks from the defense, which believes that its rights have been violated by the procedure.
Since its opening at the end of 2017, the investigation has been carried out from start to finish by the PNF, who has chosen not to open a judicial investigation, a procedural framework which allows the parties to have access to the file.
“Whether you like it or not, it’s the trademark of the PNF”, argued one of the two prosecutors at the hearing, François-Xavier Dulin, ensuring however that the defense could consult the file for more than a year. and that a contradictory debate had begun.
An opinion far from shared on the benches of the defense. “We suffer from this but the only limit (…) is to give people the means to defend themselves”, protested Me Céline Lasek, believing that her client Claude Atcher “is unable to understand what that he is blamed”.
The exchanges became even more poisonous about the telephone tapping records, the famous “fadettes”, in particular used in the file against Bernard Laporte, suspected of having called the disciplinary committee to obtain a reduction in the sanctions imposed on the MHR of M Altrad.
“Where are the fadettes?”, repeatedly launched Me Antoine Vey, the businessman’s lawyer.
Instead of the detailed statements recorded by a telephone operator, the defense claims to have received only a simple Excel table drawn up by the investigators and listing the calls and messages exchanged between the suspects.
“Is it normal that the raw data transmitted to the defense does not appear in the criminal file? Could there be a file B?”, Launched the lawyer to the address of the representatives of the PNF, who denied the existence of “any parallel proceedings”.
To break the impasse, the president of the court suspended the proceedings until Thursday and the filing of possible defense conclusions formally requiring the production of “fadettes”.
“We have the right to access the fadettes and not the software that lists them,” said Me Fanny Colin, one of Bernard Laporte’s advisers. “Otherwise, we reserve the right to request that all PVs based on these fadettes be cancelled”.