At the opening of his appeal for “fraud”, the businessman plagued by cancer, retried in the private arbitration case with Credit Lyonnais, only spoke for a few minutes.
He was eagerly awaited, notwithstanding – or because of – his stomach and esophageal cancer. Bernard Tapie, 77, however proudly presented himself, Monday afternoon, at the bar of the Paris Court of Appeal, revisiting the Adidas case for the umpteenth time, the French justice taking pleasure in remaking the match since 1998, almost a quarter of a century. The man, who was also boss of the Olympique de Marseille, is retried for “fraud” after his release in July 2019 in the arbitration case which granted him 404 million euros in 2008 to settle its old dispute with Crédit Lyonnais. The longevity of the businessman is however more uncertain than the accusation brought by the Paris prosecutor’s office.
“If we can’t bring up the Adidas affair, I’m going to break, I have nothing to tell you”, annoys Bernard Tapie at the start, mask on the face and voice broken by chemotherapy. Simple warm-up lap, five minutes watch in hand, at the stage of the personality questioning of the six defendants. Only this boastful Bernard Tapie will have spoken, even briefly. The other defendants – his lawyer Maurice Lantourne, former director of Christine Lagarde at Bercy and current CEO of Orange, Stéphane Richard, two former leaders of the Consortium de Réalisation (public heir to the ancient casseroles of a now privatized Crédit Lyonnais) – preferred not to speak at this stage. Pierre Estoup, the only one of the three arbitrators (all nonagenarians) prosecuted for “fraud” and “Embezzlement of public funds”, was carried pale.
Video: Bernard Tapie returns to the judges, in a case almost 30 years old (Dailymotion)
All surf on this first instance judgment the having relaxed, on the grounds that “The alleged facts relate to the assessment of a good or bad exercise of a ministerial function, but do not take on a criminal nature”. In question, the political decision taken at the highest level of the Sarkozy state to enter into arbitration in 2007 and then not to appeal once the decision was rendered a year later, awarding 404 million in damages to Bernard Tapie. A huge slap for the Paris prosecutor’s office, which had required prison sentences, including five years for Bernard Tapie. And who therefore appealed, all his concern to remake the match.
We are here before criminal justice, the civil and commercial courts having already done most of the job: annulment in 2017 of the arbitration award, finally granting him only the symbolic euro of damages, then judicial reorganization of the applicant with a view to recovering the funds. Why the hell a third penal layer? The Paris prosecutor’s office puts a piece back in the machine on behalf of “Frenzied entryism” de Tapie within the sarkozie then in power. The court of first instance, however, ruled that his “Activism does not prove that he gave instructions.”
“Mass is not said”
Before the Court of Appeal, the spirits were heated from the start on this mixture between civil and criminal justice, the president giving the impression of not wanting to rewind the whole film. “Mass is not said”, scrapped entry Hervé Temime, Bernard Tapie’s lawyer. “It is impossible to discuss our case without mentioning the origin of the Adidas dispute”, added Maurice Lantourne. And the president of the Court of Appeal finally conceded to them: “You will see what I think about it tomorrow during my summary.” Not sure the expression is very happy.