LVMH pays 10 million euros fine and avoids prosecution

The justice validated Friday an agreement guaranteeing the luxury group LVMH the abandonment of the prosecutions in the investigation into a spy system which would implicate the former head of the interior intelligence Bernard Squarcini, in exchange for a fine of 10 million d ‘euros.

During a public hearing, the Paris court on Friday approved a judicial agreement of public interest (CJIP) concluded two days earlier between the multinational billionaire Bernard Arnault and the Paris prosecutor’s office.

Announcing her decision, Vice-President Caroline Viguier explained that she had notably taken into account the“Age of the facts” and you “Degree of cooperation” of the luxury group “And the means implemented to avoid repeating the facts”.

Investigation opened in 2011

This agreement, made possible by the law of December 9, 2016, comes as an investigation has been investigating since 2011 the links of the former boss of internal intelligence Bernard Squarcini, nicknamed “the Squale”, with the private sector, especially with LVMH.

This judicial information with drawers, which reveals the murky links between figures of the police, the intelligence and the private interests, was widened in October 2019 after a complaint with constitution of civil party of François Ruffin and the newspaper Poor.

Mr. Ruffin denounced the « surveillance » of which he was the subject “For nearly three years” by Mr Squarcini at the request of LVMH, during the filming of Thanks boss !, satirical film on the world leader in luxury, awarded the César for best documentary in 2017. The journalist worried the group, because he planned to disrupt general meetings of the multinational.

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François Ruffin hoped for an acknowledgment of guilt

During the validation hearing of the CJIP, the deputy for the Somme called on the judge to ” refuse “ this agreement, stressing that the fine represented only « 0,02 % » of LVMH’s annual turnover (44.6 billion euros in 2020 with brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Givenchy, Guerlain, Hennessy and Sephora). He said not to claim anything for him, but asked for a “Acknowledgment of guilt” of LVMH, which is not provided for in a CJIP.

“There is a clear word from justice to say that there are things prohibited by criminal law”, defended one of the Paris prosecutors, Eric Serfass. “These facts are over, they are facts that belong to the past, to another era, to another governance”, said Jacqueline Laffont, lawyer representing LVMH with Hervé Temime, Friday.

She also underlined the fact that with this CJIP the fine now due by LVMH to the Public Treasury is “Five times higher” to the maximum incurred in the event of a possible criminal trial.

“There is no institutionalized system within the LVMH group and the group assumes, including any dysfunctions that may have occurred”, assured Jérôme Sibille, administrative and legal director of the luxury group.

“Can justice be bought and cheaply?” The answer is yes “, reacted Mr. Ruffin at the end of the hearing. “It is a blank check for all future cases of infiltration of multinationals. It was enough for LVMH to pay to be withdrawn from the procedure ”, he said.

“The main sponsor of this affair is going out the back door”, regretted Alexandre Merdassi, who represented Mr. Ruffin and the Fakir association, also a civil party, during the hearing. He estimated that this check for 10 million euros had “No dissuasive interest”.

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Nine people remain indicted

While this agreement eliminates the possibility of suing LVMH in this case, it does not end the proceedings against individuals. At least nine people are now indicted in this judicial investigation. Among them, Bernard Squarcini is for sixteen alleged crimes, including influence peddling, embezzlement of public funds, or complicity in invasion of privacy and illegal exercise of private research agent.

At his side, Laurent Marcadier, former magistrate of the Paris Court of Appeal who had converted in 2013 to security, also within LVMH, is also being prosecuted. In court, LVMH senior manager Jérôme Sibille announced that a conventional break-up procedure with Mr. Marcadier was underway and that the latter would leave the group in January 2022.

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The World with AFP