March 1, 2021

Paris court accepts corporate DPA while rejecting plea deal for Bolloré executives

On February 26, 2021, the French public prosecutor for financial crime (“PRF”) announced that the Court of Appeal of Paris had approved the convention judiciaire d’intérêt public (“CJIP” — the French equivalent of a deferred prosecution agreement) that was reached between the PRF and Bolloré SE and its majority shareholder, the holding company Financière de l’Odet SE.  Bolloré is a large transportation and logistics, communication and electricity systems and storage company headquartered near Paris.  The company was accused of making corrupt payments to the president of Togo, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma, in order to secure tax benefits and a lucrative contract to manage the port of Lomé.  Pursuant to the CJIP, Bolloré will pay €12 million, and commit up to €4 million to improvement and oversight of its compliance program by the Agence française anticorruption.  The company has ten days to accept or reject the agreement.  If accepted, and once Bolloré has fulfilled its obligations under the CJIP, the investigation, which began in November 2013, will be officially terminated.  Announcing its decision on Twitter, the Court of Appeal noted that this is the seventh CJIP executed by the PRF.

By contrast, the Court of Appeal rejected the plea agreement between the prosecutor and three top Bolloré executives, who may now have to face trial.  The plea agreements (“CRPC” or comparutions sur reconnaissance prélable de culpabilité) would have allowed chairman Vincent Bolloré, chief executive officer Gilles Alix and international director of the Havas subsidiary – which was implicated in the bribery scheme — Jean-Philippe Dorent to take responsibility by pleading guilty and paying € 375,000 each – approximately the amount Bolloré allegedly transferred to President Gnassingbé.  The plea agreement would have allowed the three men to avoid permanent criminal records as well.  The court reportedly found the proposed penalty inappropriate, declaring the men’s alleged conduct to have undermined Togolese sovereignty.  The investigating magistrate will now decide whether the three executives must stand trial.

Cour d’Appel statementBolloré press release