What is the accusation against François Bayrou, who is expected to take the stand on Tuesday?

The president of the centrist party, ally of Emmanuel Macron, is questioned Tuesday as part of the trial which has been taking place since October 16 before the Paris Criminal Court. He is suspected of complicity in embezzlement of public funds.

François Bayrou will face questions from the court. The mayor of Pau and High Commissioner for Planning, aged 72, is questioned on Tuesday November 7 before the 11th correctional chamber of Paris, where he is tried as president of the UDF, then of the MoDem, for complicity by instigation of embezzlement of public funds, between 2005 and 2017. In this case, two judges revealed, after six years of investigation, a “fraudulent mechanism”based on testimonies from former MoDem employees, documents from European authorities, emails and notes discovered during searches. “Parliamentary assistants worked for the benefit of the centrist party while they were paid by the European Parliament”summarize the two magistrates in their referral order, consulted by franceinfo.

Investigations reveal that certain MoDem employees were offered two part-time contracts: one for the party, the other as a parliamentary assistant for a MEP affiliated with the centrist political party. “The implementation of this mechanism has resulted in some assistants not working at all for their MP and exclusively for the party”, demonstrate the two investigating judges in their referral order. A solution created for “compensate for”because “the party no longer had the means to hire them full time”report the magistrates. “The UDF then the MoDem was able to benefit from a workforce that it did not pay,” they estimate.

He is suspected of being “the decision-maker” of the system

What role did François Bayrou play within this system? “fraudulent” ? For investigating judges, it “appears as the decision-maker and the person in charge”. It is he who has, “first”, “implemented” This “mechanism”. While European parliamentarians are considered to be “the main perpetrators of the offense of embezzlement of public funds”the president of MoDem goes, for his part, “accomplice of embezzlement” in “putting the necessary cogs in place”consider the two magistrates.

“In the presence of such a system set up and organized within the parties, Mr. Bayrou necessarily played a central role in it.”

The investigating judges

in their referral order

In their eyes, because he is there “figure” and the “representative” of his political training, François Bayrou has a “Status” which allows him to decide “major directions”. “The treasurer presented the accounts and the president had a decision-making eye on the party’s choices and accounts”write the magistrates in particular.

According to them, this remuneration system was intended to “answer” to “budgetary difficulties” of the MoDem, “this one is no longer able” to pay its employees. “Financial difficulties linked to poor results” obtained during various elections in France, notably the legislative elections of 2007 and 2012, which reduced the subsidies of the centrist party.

The judges assessed the damage suffered by the European Parliament, a civil party to the trial, at 348,756 euros. The institution retains the figure of 293,000 euros, of which 88,000 have already been reimbursed as part of the referral to the court, according to AFP. Pierre Cornut-Gentille, one of François Bayrou’s two lawyers, mentions in his part Release the sum 262,034 euros, concerning “4.5% of parliamentary assistants (6 out of 131 during the three legislatures targeted) and 0.5% of MoDem expenses”.

“Not a single euro of personal enrichment”

Although it is difficult to precisely assess the amount of the damage, it is nevertheless clear that this sum was only used by the UDF and the MoDem. Both parties “thus appear to be the sole beneficiaries of the embezzlement”according to the magistrates, who write in black and white that the investigation has not “no evidence of personal enrichment of deputies or party officials”.

Arguments that François Bayrou takes up in his defense. “This is a file in which investigating judges write that there has never been the slightest fictitious job and that there has not been a single euro of personal enrichment”declared the mayor of Pau on October 10 in an interview with The Republic of the Pyrenees , a few days before the trial opened. For the president of MoDem, who resigned from his post as Minister of Justice following the revelation of the affair in spring 2017, “The accusations are unfounded.” “The courts have already shown that, for the most part, this was not true. And I believe that during the trial, we will be able to bring out the whole truth.”he assured.

“I have never, not once, and we as those responsible, as a party, have never participated in the slightest embezzlement.”

François Bayrou

at “The Republic of the Pyrenees”

On the eve of the opening of the trial, the High Commissioner for Planning said “hurt” and victim, according to him, of a “political scheme” . He also told franceinfo that he would have a special thought for Marielle de Sarnez, number 2 in the centrist party for several years. The former MEP, whom François Bayrou presented as his “alter ego” before the judges, died of leukemia in January 2021. The proceedings against her are therefore over, although she had been indicted in 2019 for embezzlement of public funds.

Ten years in prison and ineligibility incurred

However, François Bayrou is not alone on the dock. Alongside him, Michel Mercier, long-time treasurer of the MoDem and also former Minister of Justice, five former MEPs, including Jean-Luc Bennahmias, three executives and a parliamentary assistant from the time, as well as the UDF, will appear until November 15 and the MoDem as legal entities.

In this case, François Bayrou faces ten years of imprisonment, a fine of one million euros and ten years of ineligibility. For the moment, the president of MoDem has attended the entire hearing since October 16. “He notes that the debates are going very well”commented those around him to franceinfo, a few days before his interrogation. “He continues to dispute the existence of any system.”

Since the first day of the trial, when he appeared smiling and confident, François Bayrou has not spoken publicly. There is no doubt that his answers to the court’s questions, which are highly anticipated, will therefore be carefully scrutinized.

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