Defense boiler room: when magistrates detail a judicial fiasco

This textbook case deserves to be included in the program of the National School of Magistrates. This is the case of alleged corruption around the award, in 1998, of the district heating and air conditioning contract for the business district of La Défense (Hauts-de-Seine), an operation of several hundred millions of euros. After twenty years of proceedings, this case ends with the absence of a trial.

The autopsy of this judicial fiasco was detailed, as rarely by the justice itself, in a judgment rendered Wednesday, September 15 by the Court of Appeal of Versailles. It confirms the cancellation of the trial pronounced in January by the court of Nanterre due to a procedure having “Exceeded a reasonable time” and ultimately the impossibility of upholding the principle of ” fair trial “.

Unjustifiable slowness

The appellate judges tried the proceedings. Investigating judges and prosecutors, undoubtedly confronted with the same questions of means as everywhere, shone by their inability to make the choices likely to advance the case.

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Six investigating judges succeeded one another between 2002 and 2019 but no investigative act was carried out during the first four years of the judicial investigation. Only the fourth investigating magistrate, who remained in office for six years, moved the case forward … which fell dormant for the next eight years, notes the Court of Appeal.

A slowness that nothing justifies. “The nature of the offenses prosecuted [corruption, faux et usage de faux, abus de bien sociaux et recel] and the number of people involved [six] presented neither an exceptional character, nor numerous international ramifications, the structure and the modalities of the alleged corruptive pact having been described in the first three years of the procedure ”, we read in this judgment.

The main accused died in 2019 at the age of 94, while a 99-year-old man, with reduced cognitive abilities, another of 83 years, suffering from Parkinson’s disease at a stage could still be tried in 2021 in this case. advanced, and the second knives. In addition, deplores the Court of Appeal, confrontations between protagonists, which could have enlightened a court if it did not hear the people itself, were not ordered during the investigation. In short, the adversarial debate, the very essence of a fair trial, could no longer be held.

Despite this mess, the public prosecutor’s office appealed to the Court of Cassation.

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