2 More scandals from the Roussillon, otherwise known as “Le Far West de la Politique” (“The Wild West of Politics”) 2
Basil Howitt reports on a new twist in the notorious Saint-Cyprien saga. He also touches on other long-running criminal investigations in the coastal resorts of Le Barcarès and Banyuls-sur-Mer. Altogether, no less than three mayors have been temporary guests in Perpignan’s Mailloles prison.
[(When he hears talk of the Pyrénées-Orientales, the great democrat Colonel Gaddafi shakes his head in disapproval and prays for the salvation of the poor souls there. And the compassionate leaders of the Burmese regime fall on their knees in terror and tears, praying that they will never be sent there in exile.
3 The million-euro dressing-gown belt 3
Regular readers may recall the sad suicide in prison last May of Jacques Bouille, then aged 62. He was the former longtime UMP mayor of Saint-Cyprien, from March 1989 until his detention in custody last December. (Full story [here->http://www.anglophone-direct.com/The-Caliph-of-St-Cyprien])
Bouille had been remanded in Perpignan’s reportedly squalid Mailloles prison on a raft of embezzlement and corruption charges to the tune of more than 5 million euros. Much of the money had come from bribes and backhanders and was lavished on paintings and objets d’art: not, alas, for the enjoyment of the citizens of St Cyprien in its museums, but mostly for Bouille to relish alone in his private collections. By the time of his death he had landed the town with debts totalling some 55,000,000 euros. Also implicated in these swindles, and currently under judicial control, are 15 former cronies and fellow conseillers of Bouille as well as several municipal employees.
A price tag of precisely 1,170,000 euros on Bouille’s dressing-gown belt has recently been demanded from the state by his widow, Marie-Antoinette. Bouille hanged himself with the belt, reinforced by a lace, some time between the prison’s two nightwatch inspections on 24th May.
3 Article D273 of the penal code 3
In a plainte (lawsuit) lodged on 8th October at the Tribunal Administratif in Montpellier, Mme Bouille’s barrister, Maître Gérard Deplanque, claimed that her late husband’s death was due to the negligence of the prison authorities. They had allowed him to retain in his cell a means of committing suicide. In Deplanque’s words: “Jacques Bouille had publicly announced his intention to commit suicide. The prison authorities therefore had an obligation of special surveillance to ensure that he didn’t carry out his threat. … The prison warder on duty found nothing untoward at 1.40 but by 3.40 he found Jacques Bouille hanging from a bar of the window by his dressing-gown belt. Such a belt is a forbidden object at night in all prison establishments … as indicated in article D273 of the penal code. Prisoners may not retain any medicament or substance enabling them to commit suicide.”
3 Undignified? 3
Last May the public prosecutor told the press “One must preserve a certain degree of dignity. Can you imagine a prisoner with a dressing gown without a belt?’ He added that Bouille “was alone in the cell to avoid him being attacked by other prisoners.”
Mme Bouille – herself heavily charged with aiding and abetting her late husband’s crimes – is claiming 1,070,000 euros in material damages – presumably calculated on the loss of Bouille’s potential future income as a GP and whatever – and a further 100,000 euros in “moral damages”.
The verdict is expected to take at least a year to materialise.
3 Thierry Delposo 3
Bouille’s immediate successor as mayor was his deputy Pierre Fontvieille. Fontvieille’s reign lasted a mere nine days before he too was remanded in custody (though released under judicial control after 22 days) on a cluster of charges – based as much on sins of omission as commission in his capacities as Bouille’s personal banker and as the Municipal treasurer. (Full story [here-> http://www.anglophone-direct.com/The-Caliph-of-St-Cyprien-Part-2])
After an interregnum under Three Wise Men appointed by the prefect, Saint Cyprien finally gained another mayor on 13th September. Thierry Del Poso, backed in the second round by the UMP, was elected with a 47.48 % majority on a Nouveau Centre break-with-the-past ticket. His liste carried 25 of the 33 seats on the conseil municipal.
In his victory speech he declared that his first objective was “to unite and reassure … I am legitimate, and it remains for me to convince those not already persuaded.”
3 Mme Joëlle Ferrand 3
Another first citizen who is no stranger to controversy is Mme Joëlle Ferrand, mayor of Le Barcarès since 1999 (succeeding her husband Alain Ferrand). The ports of Le Barcarès and Leucate (immediately to the north) constitute the largest marina complex on the French mediterranean coastline.
Mme Ferrand and her husband were convicted in 2004 for income tax fraud, and later also charged with organising forged and fraudulent registrations in the cantonal elections in which she was a candidate that same year.
Also, hovering over her head for more than four years has been a fistful of charges relating to an “offence of favouritism” – in effect using municipal funds to benefit the fishing business interests of one of her fellow conseillers, Patrick Goncalves. Since the harbour was too shallow to accommodate the draught of his brother’s new fishing boat, the conseil approved a dredging operation to the tune of 27,000 euros.
The public prosecutor demanded heavy penalties: a two-year suspended prison sentence plus deprivation of civil rights for 5 years and a fine of 15,000 euros against Mme Ferrand; and the same against Goncalves except for a shorter suspended sentence of 18 months. Mme Ferrand was even subjected to two nights’ hospitality at the infamous Mailloles prison.
3 Relaxés (discharged) 3
In its judgement last Monday 12 October the tribunal correctionnel (criminal court) in Perpignan acquitted both Mme Ferrand and Goncalves of all charges. Perhaps these remarks of a defending barrister at an earlier hearing clinched the issue: “If the road, in a village of the département, collapses in front of the house of the brother of a conseiller, does that debar the work being carried out? … Who, in Le Barcarès, doesn’t have a member of his family or an acquaintance who is a fisherman?” The dredging, the court decided, was in the public interest.
The prosecutor, however, immediately announced he would appeal against the acquittals.
Alain Ferrand, incidentally, is currently under investigation for turning a blind eye to cocaine dealing in his boîte de nuit.
3 Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow … 3
Moving south to the Côte Vermeille, the 78-year-old mayor of Banyuls-sur-Mer, Jean Rède, is awaiting a trial that has so far been deferred three times. Are the authorities, one wonders, hoping he will have “shuffled off this mortal coil” by the time it finally happens?
Rède has been accused of abusing his position in his former capacity as Director of the Centre Héliomarin de Banyuls – the sanatorium specialising in heliotherapy. He is charged with having granted himself excessive restaurant and travelling expenses. The restaurant tags alone amounted to 40,000 euros between 1986 et 2004 – much of the money being spent in his own restaurant in Banyuls!
Will he ever stand trial? The hearing was originally set for 21st March, then put back to 22nd June before again being postponed to 7th December at 8.30 in the morning!
3 References and follow up 3
Le Figaro – 13/09/09
© 2009 Basil Howitt
[(Basil Howitt has also written
[(You can contact Basil by email: [firstname.lastname@example.org->email@example.com])]