“Those who criticize the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office have never defended the reform that would allow it to be independent”

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In front of the National Financial Prosecutor's Office, in Paris, November 2, 2017.

The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), a judicial body created under the presidency of François Hollande, is today in turmoil following revelations about its management in several cases. What role did he play in the Fillon, Kohler affairs? Is it independent? How is it managed? Our journalist Simon Piel answered questions from Internet users of the World.

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Valentin: Why do the critics focus on the PNF, when it meets the same requirements as a non-specialized prosecution, if not because it disturbs political figures? If the PNF is to change, should that not also be the case for the entire French public prosecutor’s office?

Simon Skin: Critics today focus on the PNF for several reasons. The first, in my view, stems from a short-sighted political opportunism from the ranks of the politicians questioned. I recommend to you on this subject the forum published in The world by the lawyer and university professor Thomas Clay, who explains that the PNF is especially the target of those whom it disturbs, and points out that in addition to the political files this specialized parquet floor has many successes to be credited.

Common sense: François Fillon would have abused his status as a deputy by making a close relative, his wife, pay as a parliamentary assistant. Was this not the case for a significant number of parliamentarians?

Simon Skin: This is one of his arguments. And it seems that he is not entirely wrong. These nepotic practices appear to have been common for many years. But Mr. Fillon is not the only one to have been sentenced. For example, former deputy Alain Marsaud was sentenced in 2018 to one year suspended prison sentence, 300,000 euros fine and a three-year ineligibility sentence for fictitiously employing his daughter as a parliamentary collaborator during four years.

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Antigone: Is there not a contradiction in considering that the pressure for the opening of judicial information was dependent when, technically, it is entrusted to “independent” judges?

Simon Skin: This is one of the most interesting points of this case. It should be remembered that François Fillon’s lawyers demanded the opening of judicial information, because this was to allow an independent investigating judge to take the lead and in defense of the former Prime Minister of France. ” have access to the procedure in the long term and then make requests for documents. The preliminary inquiry is secret and the defendants do not have access to it. The Fillon family’s counselors had also expressed their satisfaction after the PNF press release announcing the opening of judicial information.

What they had not foreseen, perhaps, was that the judge who was going to be appointed was the magistrate Serge Tournaire, renowned for his severity and diligence. It was the president of the Paris court, Jean-Michel Hayat, reputed to be close to the left, who decided on this referral. For what reasons ? The latter must also be heard by the parliamentary commission of inquiry, Thursday, July 2, and will probably provide some answers on the reasons for this choice.

Manuel: Eric Ciotti wants to delete the PNF. In which case, by which authority would it be replaced? Does the argument made by the pro-PNFs, saying that judges with a good knowledge of questions related to funding be necessary, hold water?

It is funny to note that all those who criticize the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office today have never defended the reform which would allow the public prosecutor’s office to be independent of the executive power. This was neither in the program of François Fillon, nor in that of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Everyone agrees that a specialized structure is needed to deal with financial crimes, which are sometimes very complex. This is the purpose of the PNF.

What could it be replaced with? I do not know. Some speakers from the parliamentary commission of inquiry on the independence of the justice system put the idea of ​​an attorney general of the nation back on the table. But here again, the question of control by this authority will arise.

Read also Eric Ciotti will table a bill to remove the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office

Laurent: Beyond the PNF, it is the status of the prosecution in general that is at stake. For years we have been waiting for the reform of the Superior Council of the Magistrature which would give it its independence. No government has dared to launch this essential reform.

That’s right. It was François Fillon’s Les Républicains (LR) allies, now so quick to denounce the lack of independence of prosecutors, who, in the spring of 2016, thwarted the constitutional reform project intended to guarantee the appointment of magistrates. prosecution by the Keeper of the Seals only after a assent from the Supreme Judicial Council (HJC).

This reform was content to engrave in the Basic Law a practice respected since the beginning of the decade 2010. Catherine Champrenault and Eliane Houlette were appointed public prosecutor of Paris and public prosecutor of the Financial Republic after an assent of the CSM. The constitutional reform would be a simple step towards more independence of the prosecution from the government.

Clemclem: What is the relationship between the Kohler affair, the letter that Emmanuel Macron sent and the questioning of the PNF?

According to information from the Anticor association and the site Mediapart, the classification without further investigation of the preliminary investigation against the secretary general of the Elysée, Alexis Kohler, accused of not having mentioned his family ties with the Aponte family, the main shareholder of the Italian sea freight operator Swiss Mediterranean Shipping Company, occurred following the intervention of the President of the Republic. The defense of Mr. Kohler had indeed just added to the file a note signed by Emmanuel Macron, clearing, as a former Minister of the Economy, his former chief of staff in Bercy from any conflict of interest.

However, the police noted in a summary report that the investigation “Included precise and consistent elements on the basis of which an investigating judge could have been seized and the examination of Mr. Kohler envisaged for the counts of illegal acquisition of interests and trading in influence”.

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MGridoux: The “pressures” exerted by the public prosecutor’s office on the PNF are only requests for information accepted by judicial practice. Where is the problem ?

There are two problems. The first is the suspicion that these requests raise about the independence of the decisions that have been made. Remember the Urvoas-Solère affair, which largely contributed to raising suspicion about the risks of the judiciary being exploited by politicians. Jean-Jacques Urvoas, then Minister of Justice, had asked the directorate of criminal affairs and pardons for a public action sheet on the judicial investigation targeting LRM deputy Thierry Solère before transmitting it by the encrypted Telegram application.

These facts had been experienced as a real betrayal by many magistrates, who had seen there a political instrumentalization of their services and a deviation from the rules of feedback, and for good reason. Jean-Jacques Urvoas was also convicted before the Court of Justice of the Republic. The other problem, or rather the other question which arises in my opinion, is the relevance of this feedback of information on politico-financial files.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Fillon case: the former financial prosecutor evokes “enormous pressure” from his hierarchy

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