The Nanterre public prosecutor’s office appealed Thursday against the extremely rare decision of the criminal court, which ended Monday the trial of “the boiler room of the Defense” by canceling all the acts of investigation for “unreasonable delay”.
The Nanterre public prosecutor’s office notably affirmed, in a press release sent to AFP, that “the criminal court does not have the power to pronounce the nullity of a procedure without a textual basis”.
“The absence of a reasonable time can only be sanctioned by a right to compensation before other bodies according to the case law of the Court of Cassation and the European Court of Human Rights”, he said. .
The public prosecutor especially regretted that this decision “nullifies all the investigations” carried out for nearly twenty years, in this very old case of alleged corruption in the Hauts-de-Seine.
Five business leaders were to be tried from Monday to Friday in Nanterre for having distorted between 1999 and 2003 the award of the lucrative heating and air conditioning market for the leading European business district, estimated at several hundred million euros .
Among them, one of the oldest defendants in France, Jean Bonnefont, ex-Charbonnages de France, now 98 years old.
But the trial ended on the first day of the hearing: the criminal court considered that the right of defendants to be tried within a reasonable time had not been respected by a procedure that had lasted nearly twenty years.
This “unreasonable duration deprives two of the main defendants (aged 98 and 82, editor’s note) of their ability to fully defend themselves” because of “disorders related to old age and their state of health”, had thus justified Olivier Protard, the president of the 15th correctional chamber.
During the hearing, the prosecutor Nathalie Foy had argued that there was no “old age excuse” to grant. In its press release, the prosecution also explained the length of the proceedings by the “undeniable complexity” of the case.
“The Nanterre public prosecutor’s office tries to counter the sense of judicial history. Obviously, it is imperative respect for European rules which are imposed on all, and it is obvious that the sanction for the violation of the reasonable time must be the pure and simple cancellation of the procedure “, declared Me Olivier Baratelli, counsel for Jean Bonnefont.
“The prosecution takes the heavy responsibility of lengthening this procedure again to the detriment of the defendants, and in particular two of them who are very old or very sick”, lamented to AFP Emmanuel Daoud, lawyer of ‘one of the other defendants, denouncing a “judicial harassment”.
But for Me Florence Gaudillière, civil party lawyer in the case, it is “a relief” for her clients. “It is happy that the prosecution is appealing”, because “for the civil parties, an interminable procedure then, ultimately, the indicted who can not be sentenced, it is a double sentence!”.
The Versailles court of appeal must now rule.