An investigation opened after the complaint for illegal taking of interests against the CEO of the TotalEnergies group

The controversy aroused by the project to set up a TotalEnergies (formerly Total) research center in the heart of the Polytechnique (l’X) campus, located on the Saclay plateau (Essonne), is far from over. . According to information from World, the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) opened, in May, a preliminary investigation for possible acts of illegal taking of interests, targeting the CEO of the oil giant, Patrick Pouyanné. This investigation follows the complaint filed on April 22 by Greenpeace France, Anticor and La Sphinx – an association that brings together several dozen former students of the prestigious engineering school – to the Paris prosecutor’s office. Asked, the PNF confirmed the information.

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The complainants accuse Mr. Pouyanné of having taken advantage of his status as a member of the board of directors of l’X, as of September 2018, to influence, on behalf of TotalEnergies, the final decision to validate the project, on 25 June 2020. “We are talking about the CEO of one of the largest multinationals in the world and facts likely to constitute an illegal acquisition of interests within the largest elite French school, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, recalls Clara Gonzales, lawyer at Greenpeace France. In view of the stakes, it makes sense that this investigation be entrusted to the PNF. “

The criminal offense of illegal taking of interests, punishable by five years in prison and a fine of 500,000 euros, consists, for a person holding public authority, in taking, receiving or keeping an interest in a company or a company. operation that she supervised or administered. “Patrick Pouyanné has one foot in two houses, so it was his duty to identify the risks of conflicts of interest as a public establishment administrator, says Clara Gonzales. These risks should also have been assessed by the board of directors, which is supposed to guarantee the independence of public education. ”

Growing influence on the school

The TotalEnergies building project has been contested since November 2019 by students from the Ecole Polytechnique, subject to a duty of reserve due to their military status. It provides for the construction in the historic heart of the campus, close to housing and classrooms, of a 10,000 m² innovation and research center in the field of low-carbon energies, where some 250 researchers will work. In June 2020, the Polytechnique board of directors moved the location of the building by 200 meters, which was not enough to satisfy the opponents of the project. They are not unfavorable to the very principle of a partnership with the oil and gas group, but they demand that the center be built outside the campus, like those of the other partner companies of the public school. They are basically worried about the growing influence of TotalEnergies on X.

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