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Sport The background of the Altrad-Laporte affair

13:10  27 september  2020
13:10  27 september  2020 Source:   lejdd.fr

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Bernard Laporte , Mohed Altrad and three other people taken into police custody on Tuesday morning in France were released on Wednesday night after two days of questioning by the fraud squad. Altrad , the Montpellier owner who is now also jersey sponsor of the France national team, was taken

Après les auditions de cette semaine, le JDD révèle de nouveaux éléments de l’enquête. © Sipa

After this week's hearings, the JDD reveals new elements of the investigation.

The case revealed by the JDD three years ago took a decisive step this week. Police officers from the Economic Crime Repression Squad (BRDE) heard from Bernard Laporte, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet, three leaders of the French Rugby Federation (FFR), businessman Mohed Altrad and Claude Atcher, Director General of France 2023, placed in custody Tuesday and released free the next day. Commissioned by the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF), which opened a preliminary investigation for influence peddling and illegal taking of interest, they suspect Laporte, president of the FFR, of having favored the club of Montpellier (MHR), property of Altrad, by influencing a decision of the Federal Appeal Board, when a private contract secretly bound him to the Altrad group.

Altrad case: why are Bernard Laporte and four other people in custody?

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France rugby president Bernard Laporte has written a letter after his release this week from police custody investigating his dealings with Mohed Altrad . He has faced some criticism since then, largely because he was a member of the working group in the independent-led governance review.

Mohed Altrad : entrepreneur and writer. Mohed Altrad , President of the group that bears his name, comes from the Syrian desert. The Altrad group has also created the positions of observers, who attend Board meetings in the same manner and with the same level of information as the directors.

A call from Laporte to Gabbanini

"The file is empty," said Laporte the day after these hearings, declaring himself very calm. According to our sources, on June 27, 2017, Laurent Gabbanini, deputy director general of the FFR, nevertheless confided to the secretary general of the institution, Christian Dullin, having received a call from Laporte the day before. The latter told him of his "strong will" to see the sanctions against the MHR reduced or even lifted. Gabbanini then wondered whether he should contact the chairman of the appeal commission, Jean-Daniel Simonet himself, conceding that he was walking "on eggshells" and that he did not want him to Here we see "displaced interventionism".

"At the same time, we have pressure on this decision," he informed Dullin. This is to spare Altrad, great financier of the Federation, patron of the candidacy for the organization of the 2023 World Cup and brought to play a central role in the political plan drawn by the vice-president, Serge Simon, aiming to blow up the National League (LNR).

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After being taken in police custody on Tuesday along with Mohed Altrad , France rugby boss Bernard Laporte has issued a repsonse on Facebook. “I’m very respectful of the work of justice and I have been asking for months that this file be completed as quickly as possible. But the method is revolting.

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The French candidacy for the World Cup

At the same time, the investigators analyze the process which enabled the FFR to win the organization of the World Cup. Fifteen days before the vote of the federations, World Rugby had recommended the candidacy of South Africa. Altrad's financial strength guides their investigations, which could extend to Georgia. Shortly before going to the appeal committee, the president of the MHR had offered two private flights to federal leaders (Atcher, Hourquet, Laporte and Simon): Bron - Ulaanbaatar via Kazan (19-22 May 2017) and Le Bourget- Tbilisi (June 17-19, 2017). Altrad personally took care of reserving the planes supplied by Aviation Défense Service, a company in Saint-Gilles (Gard) of which his group is an important customer.

These trips would have enabled Atcher, who led the French candidacy, and Laporte to lead intense lobbying with the federations.

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In the spring of 2017, Atcher and Laporte also made other trips. Two of them lead to a "memorandum of understanding" for "the development of rugby", according to the FFR. The first was signed on April 14, 2017 with the Singaporean federation, on the sidelines of the 7-a-side rugby tournament, of which Laporte presents the trophy to the winner. At the time, Atcher had interests in Singapore, contrary to what he said on November 8, 2017 during a hearing before the National Assembly's Committee on Cultural Affairs. He is a shareholder in two Singaporean companies, LEA Conseils and Sportsevens. The first, dissolved on December 4, 2017, provides management consulting services. The second, still active, works in the events sector. In 2017, she also officiates on behalf of the Singapore 7-a-side tournament. Since then, Atcher has sold its shares to its partners.

Trips that question

Another "protocol" was signed on May 6, 2017 in Dubai with the Emirati federation. To Secretary General Qais Al Dhalai, Laporte and Atcher promise the relocation "within two years" of a match of the XV of France in the United Arab Emirates, which will never occur. At the end of 2019, President of Rugby Asia, one of the six regional associations of World Rugby, Al Dhalai agreed to receive our questions by email, but he never replied. The investigators are all the more interested in these trips as their cost does not appear separately under the item "travel and mission expenses" of the FFR accounts closed on June 30, 2017.

In addition, according to the accounts published in 2018, the net charge relating to the expenses incurred by the FFR for the application amounts to 342,402 euros. A very modest disbursement compared to the resources deployed. The flight to Mongolia alone cost Altrad 106,000 euros. And Score XV, the Atcher company, invoiced 120,000 euros for the follow-up of the file.

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