Paris, November 10, 2022 – While a new hearing will take place today in the Bolloré case for alleged corruption practices in Togo, Sherpa and Anticor, civil parties in the case, alert on the harmful expansion of negotiated justice in corruption cases. During this hearing, the investigating chamber will rule notably on issues relating to the French mechanism of “plea bargain deals” a negotiated procedure with the prosecution allowing avoiding a public trial.
As a reminder, executives of the Bolloré Group are suspected of having financed the re-election of the President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé, through the intermediary of the Havas subsidiary of the group, which allegedly under-invoiced its political advice services. In exchange, the African leader allegedly awarded Vincent Bolloré the concession for the management of the ports of Lomé via another of its subsidiaries, Bolloré Africa Logistics.
Earlier in 2019, executives of the Bolloré Group had negotiated a “plea guilty deals” with the French financial prosecutor in order to avoid a public trial providing the payment of 375 000 euros fine. However, during the 2021 validation hearing (which purpose is to give the deal legal force by approval by a judicial independent judge), the judge refused to approve these deals considering that the decisions were “unsuitable” in view of the seriousness of the charges and that it was “necessary” that the individuals be referred to court.
This judicial step is for Sherpa and Anticor, NGOs engaged on the front line in the fight against transnational corruption, an opportunity to highlight the dangers of negotiated justice in financial crime, and the development of a derogatory criminal law regime for companies and executives. Indeed, we recall that public trials not only allow the exposure of corrupt practices but also ensures a more important place and representation for the victims of corruption.
In 2021, The company Bolloré SA and the financial prosecutor entered into a prosecution agreement fining the company to pay 12 million euros. The attempt to resort to plea deals concerning the leaders themselves is a perfect example of the tendency to extend negotiated justice procedures to individuals. While corruption is the main obstacle to economic and social development in the world, corruption cases should not remain locked in the secrecy of the political-judicial circle.