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Bolloré CEO asks French court to throw out Togo corruption case

In this June 22, 2016 file photo, then Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bollore attends a hearing at the French Senate, in Paris.
In this June 22, 2016 file photo, then Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bollore attends a hearing at the French Senate, in Paris. Copyright Kamil Zihnioglu/AP
Copyright Kamil Zihnioglu/AP
By James Thomas with AFP
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The case concerns allegations that Bolloré Group funnelled bribes in the form of communication expenses to Togolese officials to win business contracts.

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Billionaire businessman Vincent Bolloré has asked France's top court to throw out a corruption case against him, in which he has been charged with bribing a foreign public official between 2009 and 2011 as part of a scheme to win a contract in the Port of Lomé in Togo.

The Court of Cassation will issue its ruling on 29 November.

The billionaire has been under investigation since 2018, and is currently facing a criminal trial.

Another executive of Bolloré's transport company Bolloré Group, Gilles Alix, and Jean-Philippe Dorent, international director at public relations firm Havas, also lodged similar appeals alongside Bolloré on Wednesday.

Alix is under investigation for corruption linked to the alleged Togo scheme, while Dorent is suspected of complicity in breach of trust. They all deny wrongdoing.

The trio have asked the court to annul the proceedings against them on the grounds that their "fundamental rights" would be "irrevocably" affected if they went ahead, in particular their presumption of innocence.

They say that this is because they had already signed plea bargains concerning allegations of corruption with the National Financial Prosecutor's Office (PNF), before they were thrown out by a Paris court in February 2021.

Failing an annulment of the proceedings, the executives are requesting that all documents referring to the plea deals be removed from the case file, as well as the court ruling validating a €12 million corruption settlement that Bolloré Group signed with the PNF over the alleged scheme, also in February 2021.

'Seriously undermined economic public order'

Their appeals to the Court of Cassation follow an appeal to the case's investigating judge, who decided to go ahead with proceedings in March and ordered the redaction of only some of the documents relating to the plea deals.

The plea bargains would have allowed Bolloré, Alix and Dorent to avoid a lengthy criminal trial in exchange for each of them paying a €375,000 fine.

However, the Judicial Court of Paris refused to approve the deals, ruling that it was "necessary" for the three men to face trial because the allegations against them "seriously undermined economic public order" and the sovereignty of Togo.

The matter has been under investigation since 2013, in which Bolloré Group is alleged to have used its subsidiary Euro RSCG - now Havas - to funnel bribes in the form of communication expenses to Togolese officials between 2009 and 2011 to win contracts and tax benefits for it and its subsidiaries - including Bolloré Africa Logistics, formerly known as SDV.

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