France: Corruption investigation opened against Alstom

The Alstom corruption saga continues, after the US and UK investigated the French rolling stock manufacturer and operator of rail transport, it is the turn of French authorities.

An investigation targeting the Alstom Group has been opened for corruption of a foreign public official and concealment. The opening of this judicial investigation follows a complaint filed by the anti-corruption association Anticor.

The judicial investigation was opened on March 23 after the complaint with civil action filed by the anti-corruption association Anticor, AFP reported on Tuesday after learning the news from a judicial source.

The association had filed in December 2020 a complaint for corruption against X with civil action with the head of the investigating judges of the Paris court, a procedure which leads to the almost systematic opening of a judicial investigation.

In 2014, the leaders of Alstom had agreed to sell the substantial energy branch of their group to the American industrialist General Electric (GE) for an amount of approximately 12 billion euros.

The same year, in December, the French group had paid a record fine of 772 million dollars in the United States for acts of corruption in several countries.

In 2019, Alstom Network U.K., Alstom’s British subsidiary, was ordered to pay $20.8 million for bribes it paid to win a contract to supply trams in Tunisia.

These acts of corruption led to “the weakening of Alstom”, which “facilitated the takeover of the energy branch by GE with negative consequences on employment and very positive for the remuneration of the actors of this merger”, had estimated Anticor in a press release at the time of the complaint.

“These acts, committed by natural persons, are extremely serious since they resulted in the loss of one of the French flagships to the benefit of the Americans”, one of Anticor’s lawyers told AFP. “As long as the leaders of Alstom have pleaded guilty to acts of corruption in the United States and the legal person has been sentenced, this necessarily means that natural persons have carried out these acts of corruption”, he added.

For the president of the association, Elise Van Beneden, it is important that “those responsible, both natural and legal persons, be judged before French law”.

“The sprawling Alstom affair is one of the biggest state scandals involving issues of industrial, energy and diplomatic sovereignty,” she said.

The association filed several complaints after the sale of Alstom’s energy division. To support this complaint, Anticor relied in particular on the 2018 parliamentary report on France’s industrial policy, the plea agreement signed by Alstom in the United States and the book written by a former executive of Alstom , Frédéric Pierrucci, sentenced in the United States for a case of corruption in Indonesia.

The controversial takeover of Alstom by GE is also the subject of a preliminary investigation by the national financial prosecutor’s office (PNF), after the reporting in 2019 to justice of Olivier Marleix, then president of the parliamentary commission of inquiry.

He wondered in particular about the circumstances of this sale and the role played by Emmanuel Macron, then Minister of the Economy.

In this report, the current president of the LR group at the assembly was also surprised that the French judicial authorities had “never opened an investigation” into Alstom after the payment of the fine for corruption.

In parallel, the social and economic committee and the GE inter-union in Belfort filed a complaint with the PNF last May, for laundering the proceeds of tax evasion, against the American group.

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