Ten days away from running for the head of the French rugby federation (FFR) Bernard Laporte was taken into custody Tuesday, September 22 in Paris, in the investigation into his links with the president of the Montpellier club, Mohed Altrad. His lawyer denounces a “Interference” in the campaign for the presidency of the FFR while Bernard Laporte castigates a “Destabilization” and one “Calendar unworthy of a democracy” in a letter to French clubs, distributed during his custody.
Preliminary investigation opened in 2017
Heard by the Economic Crime Repression Brigade (BRDE), Bernard Laporte is the target of a preliminary investigation opened in 2017 by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office, then recipient of a report from the inspectors general of the sports ministry. He would have exerted pressure on the federation’s appeal committee to reduce in June 2017 the sanctions pronounced against Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), the club owned by the Altrad group, also sponsor of the France team.
August 13, 2017 Sunday Newspaper had also revealed the existence of a contract for 150,000 € of image services between BL Communication, a company managed by Laporte, and Altrad Investment Authority, a contract which the boss of French rugby had finally given up.
→ TO RE (READ). Rugby, what do we blame Bernard Laporte for?
“Interference with the judicial process”
Lawyer for Bernard Laporte, Me Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi deplored that the hearing takes place ten days before the elections for the presidency of the rugby federation, where the former Secretary of State for Sports (2007-2009) is seeking a second term, facing its main opponent Florian Grill.
“Searches were carried out (at the headquarters of the FFR) in February 2018, one could imagine that he would be heard in September 2018, this would have left investigators seven months to analyze the documents. However, he was summoned two years later, in the middle of the campaign, while the prosecutor knew the electoral calendar of the federation since August 2019 ”, said the advice of Bernard Laporte.
“It is the blatant interference of a judicial process in an electoral process”, he added, claiming that “The prosecutor refused, without reason, to change the date”. A previous hearing, set earlier in the year, had been postponed “Because of the health restrictions of Covid-19, otherwise he would have gone there”, added Me Versini-Campinchi. As part of the investigation, the three members of the federal appeal commission have already been heard in 2019.
The boss of the group, Mohed Altrad, owner of the Montpellier club and sponsor of the Blues, was also taken into custody by the financial police, just like the boss of the 2023 World Cup Claude Atcher, and two senior officials of the Federation, Serge Simon and Nicolas Hourquet.