The former first secretary of the Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, was refused on Tuesday a guilty plea procedure which would have avoided a trial in a case of embezzlement of parliamentary mandate expenses for a total amount of 114,000 euros.
At the end of the hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Cambadélis’ lawyer told AFP that he would consider whether to appeal this refusal to approve. Failure to do so would pave the way for a trial in criminal court.
The former socialist deputy had agreed to be tried during an appearance procedure on admission of guilt (CRPC) at the Paris court.
The CRPC – a kind of French “plead-guilty” – is based on an agreement between the prosecution and the perpetrator of an offense, who acknowledges his guilt and is offered a sentence. But a judge must then give the green light in a so-called probate hearing.
During the hearing, the president of the court Alain Alçufrom explained that Mr. Cambadélis was accused of the embezzlement of 114,057 euros in compensation representing mandate costs (IRFM) between 2015 and 2017.
This money was used for various types of expenses such as the contribution to the PS and the financing of the Parisian section of the party, the financing of its own electoral campaign, but also for personal expenses such as the repayment of a loan, the payment rent or even telephone or television bills, or the payment of income tax and housing tax.
At the helm, the 70-year-old former elected official admitted the facts and accepted the sentence, negotiated with the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), of six months’ suspended imprisonment and one year of ineligibility also accompanied reprieve.
He has also started to reimburse the National Assembly, and will have to pay him 1,400 euros from his retirement until February 2026.
His lawyer, Me Jean-Etienne Giamarchi, underlined that the agreement reached was the “fruit of three years of discussions and negotiations”, observing that his client had during the procedure contested certain disputed expenditure items, in particular related to the housing, his office being in his apartment.
“It’s an imperfect agreement” but “you have to know how to end a trial,” he said.
Finally, the president refused to approve this sentence, considering that it was not adapted to the “seriousness of the facts (…) committed by an elected representative of the Republic” and regretting that the PNF did not propose plus a fine.
The prosecutor had explained a little earlier that he had not withheld the fine to take account of “a situation of misfortune” of Mr. Cambadélis and because a prison sentence was “stronger than a fine”, which risked “remaining a dead letter”.
In 2018, the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATVP) sent the files of around fifteen elected officials to the courts after checking the variation in their assets between the first IRFM framework rules in 2015 and their end of term in 2017.
After abuses in the past (permanences, holidays, payment of subscriptions to parties, television, etc.) paid with the IRFM, established in 1997, the Assembly and then the Senate had enacted in 2015 a list – very general – of authorized expenses and prohibited (including the acquisition of real estate), and imposed the payment of the IRFM to a dedicated bank account. The deputies also had to certify on their honor of its proper use.
Moralization laws passed in the summer of 2017 led to a reform of the system in early 2018, with stricter rules and random control of spending.
On March 11, the PNF indicated that nine parliamentarians or former parliamentarians had escaped legal proceedings after having reimbursed Parliament for fraudulent expenses related to the use of their representative allowance for mandate expenses between 2015 and 2017 between 6,707 euros and 47,299 euros.
Three procedures remained in progress at the PNF, including that of Mr. Cambadélis.
06/28/2022 18:08:57 – Paris (AFP) – © 2022 AFP