Bernard Laporte sentenced to two years in prison suspended, French rugby in turmoil

This is the epilogue of a legal soap opera that has shaken French rugby for several months. Tuesday, December 13, the president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of €75,000 by the Paris Criminal Court for having tied “a pact of corruption” with businessman Mohed Altrad, manager of Montpellier Hérault Rugby (MHR), concerning in particular the allocation of sponsorship for the Blues jersey.

The sentence of the boss of French rugby, found guilty of passive corruption, influence peddling, illegal taking of interests and concealment of misuse of corporate assets, was accompanied by a two-year ban on exercising any function related with rugby. Bernard Laporte’s decision to appeal being suspensive, he retains his seat at the FFR, less than ten months from the World Cup in France.

Is it just a temporary reprieve for the former coach of the XV of France? Tuesday evening, the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra estimated that his conviction “obstructed” in the pursuit of his mission at the top of the FFR, claiming in fact his replacement at the end of“a new democratic era to allow French rugby to start again on a sufficiently healthy and solid foundation as quickly as possible”.

For his part, Mohed Altrad was found guilty of active bribery, influence peddling, abuse of corporate assets, and received an eighteen-month suspended prison sentence and a €50,000 fine.

The Laporte-Altrad relationship in the sights of the judges

The origin of the case dates back to a series of arbitrations rendered in 2017-2018. Bernard Laporte allegedly used his status to interfere in favor of his friend Mohed Altrad after receiving €180,000 from him in March 2017, under an image contract that was never executed. “Each of his interventions was guided by a bias towards Mohed Altrad”, according to the court, favoring in particular the awarding of the very first sponsorship contract for the jersey in the history of the XV of France to the construction group of Mohed Altrad. At the time, Bernard Laporte brushed off criticism, promising the partnership would pay off “at least 35 million euros” over five years, for the benefit of amateur rugby.

The suspicions of favoritism went further. The president of the FFR would also have intervened to alleviate disciplinary sanctions aimed at the Montpellier club. Indicted for having maintained the postponement of matches for the benefit of the said club, the vice-president of the FFR, Serge Simon, was released. To these legal setbacks is added the recent layoff of the project manager of the organization of the 2023 World Cup, Claude Atcher, for managerial practices judged “alarming”.

The 2023 World Cup in sight

These legal disputes tarnish French rugby and contrast with the state of grace, on the ground, of the France team. Former international fly-half under the Laporte era, Yann Delaigue is however confident in the ability of French rugby to recover from the condemnation of the leader of the federation: “Rugby is, in its very essence, a sport based on the idea that no one is irreplaceable. But this verdict actually turns the oval world upside down a lot, it does not help to give a good image of our sport.. »

Max Guazzini, emblematic president of the Stade Français Paris between 1992 and 2011, sees “a case mounted in a pinch”and prefers to retain the results obtained by the one who was the successful coach of the Parisian club before taking the reins of the XV of France (2000-2007). “Since 2016, Bernard Laporte has fought for the World Cup to take place in our country when it was not won in advance. He chose a coach in the person of Fabien Galthié, who allowed our Blues to return to victory. It is largely thanks to him that tricolor rugby is doing so well. he says to The cross.

As for the supposed interferences of Bernard Laporte, Max Guazzini relativizes: “You really have to know nothing about the practices that are current in our sport to think that a president never intervenes with a disciplinary committee when there is an unjust sanction. »

The future governance of the FFR in question

However, it is the mission of the Federal Committee of Ethics and Professional Conduct of French Rugby, chaired by Bernard Foucher, to make the governance of the FFR more transparent. This entity created in 2016, concomitantly with the arrival of Bernard Laporte, benefited from “the cooperation of the federal authorities”according to this honorary member of the Council of State.

However, this body had no say in the awarding of the sponsorship contract for the Blues jersey to the Altrad group. “The contract had already been concluded, says Bernard Foucher. We simply issued recommendations on the execution of the contract to prevent potential conflicts of interest with Montpellier Hérault Rugby. » In January 2018, seized by the presidents of professional clubs, this same committee recommended the establishment of “safeguards to ensure that there is no possibility of favoritism “.


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Sentenced for ‘carrying’ Chinese people entering illegally

Ho Chi Minh CityNguyen Thi Tuyen Tien, 31 years old, allowed 20 Chinese people to stay illegally at the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic.

On April 21, Tien was sentenced to 3 years in prison by the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City Organizing others to stay in Vietnam illegally.

Defendant Nguyen Sy Xuan Hieu, 28 years old; Nguyen Thanh Minh, 20 years old, was sentenced to one year and six months in prison as an accomplice.

Defendant Tien and his accomplices in court. Image: Thao Mi

Responding to the jury today, Tien said that from 2014 to the end of 2019 he did business in China with Xiao Fen’s help. Around March 2021, after Tien returned home, Xiao Fen called to pick up some Chinese people who crossed the border into Vietnam and moved to Ho Chi Minh City to stay.

On March 8, 2021, Tien asked Hieu and Minh to lead them to two apartments in District 7, to buy food and water. A week later, the police discovered 5 Chinese people illegally staying here.

Tien also admitted that he had previously organized two other groups of 16 Chinese to stay illegally in the apartment. All living expenses for them are paid for by her, no fees. “In the past, the defendant was helped by Xiao Fen, so now he accepts this person’s request to repay the favor,” Tien said.

Authorities expelled the Chinese group back home after being discovered.

Thao Mi



Case of the sextape: Karim Benzema sentenced to one year in prison

After more than six years, the “sextape affair” was finally judged: the Real Madrid player Karim Benzema was sentenced on Wednesday November 24 to a one-year suspended prison sentence and a € 75,000 fine, convicted of complicity in attempted blackmail on his former teammate, Mathieu Valbuena.

In his judgment, the president of the 7e chamber of the Versailles Criminal Court considered that Karim Benzema had “Personally involved, at the cost of subterfuge and lies, to convince his teammate to submit to blackmail”.

→ READ. Karim Benzema and the sextape affair, the incomprehensible implication

The player’s lawyers immediately announced their intention to appeal, specifying that their client, absent from the proceedings last month and from the deliberations on Wednesday, would be present at a second trial. “The reaction is ultimately a reaction of anger”, notably lambasted Me Sylvain Cormier, saying to himself “Flabbergasted” by one “Very severe sentence, unjust and without proof”.

Duty of exemplarity

The 33-year-old striker was also ordered to pay € 80,000 to the complainant and a symbolic euro to the French Football Federation, which had taken legal action in this case.

For his involvement in this intimate video blackmail, the prosecution had requested against the player ten months suspended sentence and a € 75,000 fine. The prosecutors had recalled in their indictment the duty of exemplarity of the star of the France team, “Bearer of an image, hope, notoriety and moral values”.

Besides Karim Benzema, four other men were convicted in this case. Considered the ” umbilical cord “ In this case, Mustapha Zouaoui was notably sentenced to two and a half years in prison and an arrest warrant was issued against him. His lawyer announced he was going to appeal.

Benzema should stay in Blue

“My client was waiting for recognition of his victim status, he had it, he is satisfied, he does not expect any particular apology from anyone”, also declared Mathieu Valbuena’s lawyer, Me Didier Domat.

“We have important civil interests, not negligible, but once again that will not be able to erase the damage that results from his non-selection for the France team”, he added. During the hearing, the current midfielder of Olympiakos (Greece), 37, recalled that this affair had cost him his place with the Blues, he who at the time had 52 selections for the national team.

→ READ. Euro 2021: Karim Benzema back, the risky bet of Didier Deschamps

Karim Benzema, he remained away from the French selection for more than five years before making a surprise return before Euro 2021. This conviction should not, however, keep him away from the Blues again. Two weeks ago, the boss of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët, explained that the 33-year-old striker “Would not be excluded” of the selection in case of “Judicial sanction”.



Football: the author of the bottle throwing on Dimitri Payet sentenced to 6 months in prison

A six-month suspended prison sentence, accompanied by a probation and a five-year ban on access to OL’s stadium, was pronounced on Tuesday 23 November against the author of the plastic bottle throw on the Marseillais Dimitri Payet, Sunday evening in Lyon during the Ligue 1 OL-OM match. The prosecutor had required six months in prison to punish the act of the defendant, 32 years old.

→ ANALYSIS. Football: against overflows in stadiums, rules that are too vague

The incident had led to the definitive interruption of the match between Lyon and Marseille in the framework of the 14e day of the French championship, after only four minutes of play. “We are seeing a rise in incidents and acts of violence”, said prosecutor Béatrice Moure in her indictment, recalling that the clubs incurred “Significant administrative penalties in the event of a problem”.

→ ANALYSIS. Ultras of football, a way of life

“There is no such thing as zero risk, but zero tolerance exists”, she added, asking the court “An exemplary sentence”. Olympique Lyonnais, who became a civil party in the proceedings, did the same on Monday.

Proposals in “two weeks”

The disciplinary committee of the Professional Football League, meeting urgently on Monday, has already sanctioned the club with a closed-door match as a precaution, before making a final decision on December 8. OL, which has been talking about since Sunday evening ” an isolated case “, hopes to be able to replay the match against Marseille.

Tuesday morning, after a meeting with the authorities of French football, the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin announced that measures for security in the stadiums will be proposed “In fifteen days”. These measures should relate to the prohibition of stadiums for certain supporters, the securing of the stands (cameras, safety nets), the private security responsible for controlling access and the decision-making process for stopping the stadiums. matches.