Jean-Pierre Bechter, the former LR mayor and ex-right-hand man of Serge Dassault, sentenced to two years in prison

    Jean-Pierre Bechter, the former LR mayor and ex-right-hand man of Serge Dassault, sentenced to two years in prison

    Serge Dassault (left) and Jean-Pierre Bechter (right), in March 2014 during a campaign rally in Corbeil-Essonnes. FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP

    Jean-Pierre Bechter, former LR mayor of Corbeil-Essonnes and ex-right-hand man of Serge Dassault, was sentenced, Thursday, December 17, in Paris, to two years in prison for buying votes and illegal financing of the electoral campaign during the elections. municipal by-elections of 2009 and 2010. He will be in house arrest under electronic surveillance.

    The criminal court also sentenced two former deputies to the town hall as well as three men considered to be intermediaries in the electoral corruption system to terms ranging from one to two years in prison. All the defendants are also sentenced to five years of ineligibility. Indicted in 2014 in this case, Serge Dassault died in 2018 at the age of 93, before the end of the investigation.

    “The facts are particularly serious when it comes to breaches of the rules of democracy. They are likely to greatly degrade the confidence of citizens in their elected representatives and, beyond that, to discredit the functioning of democracy ”, criticized the president of the court in her judgment.

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    The National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) had requested at the hearing four years in prison and 100,000 euros fine against Mr. Bechter, as well as two years and 15,000 euros fine for the other five defendants .

    “Dassault system”

    Jean-Pierre Bechter, 76, head of the list in 2009 and 2010, was the “Main beneficiary of the Dassault system”, underlined the president, speaking of a man who was at the time only “Straw mayor” having taken over from Serge Dassault. Mr Bechter’s lawyer, Sébastien Schapira, immediately announced that his client, “Who is innocent”, was going to appeal “For him and for the town hall of Corbeil-Essonnes, of which he was mayor for ten years”.

    Jacques Lebigre, 79, former deputy of this town hall, was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 15,000 euros. His lawyer also indicated that he was going to appeal. The former housing assistant Christella de Oliveira, 42, who was not prosecuted for paying activists, was however sentenced to eighteen months in prison, including six months suspended.

    Considered an intermediary in this system, Younès Bounouara, 48, was sentenced to two years in prison. The court refused to confuse the sentence with that to which he was sentenced on appeal in 2018 for an assassination attempt linked to these suspicions of vote buying.

    Machiré Gassama, 43, former director of youth and sports at the town hall, was, for his part, given a year in prison, for having been a linchpin of this system, like Mounir Labidi, a former agent 36-year-old municipal officer, absent from the trial, who was sentenced to two years in prison.

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    Donations of money, housing or employment promises

    The six defendants, who disputed the facts, were suspected of having participated, at different levels, in a system of pyramidal electoral corruption during the municipal elections of 2009 and 2010, consisting in recruiting teams in the neighborhoods in order to convince the inhabitants to go vote for the Dassault camp.

    In exchange: donations of money, promises of housing or employment, the financing of training or a permit … And remuneration for “Touts”, according to the prosecution. All fueled by the colossal fortune of Serge Dassault and with the aim of preserving this city of some 50,000 inhabitants located south of the capital.

    This alleged system involved, according to the prosecution, the distribution of checks and cash envelopes, loans never repaid, the financing of fictitious associations or even transfers of hundreds of thousands of euros between accounts abroad.

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    An “exceptional” case

    At the hearing, the representative of the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) Patrice Amar had raised a case “Exceptional” : “We have never seen in France a city delivered to such a degree of corruption and civic decomposition”, he said.

    Estimating at 16.5 million euros the amounts that can be assimilated to election expenses for the 2009 and 2010 polls, he first symbolically requested, to the surprise of the court, five years in prison ” posthumously “ against Serge Dassault. Indicted in 2014, the industrialist recognized « dons » but denied any connection with the elections, claiming to be the victim of extortion.

    “We did not buy a voice”, had sworn Jacques Lebigre, asserting that Serge Dassault “Hold[nait] people in difficulty ” and that he was then “Solicited by thugs”. ” It does not exist “, abounded Younès Bounouara, who is serving a prison sentence for an assassination attempt linked to these suspicions of buying votes. The defense had pleaded the release, denouncing a file based on “Rumors” and “Empty” evidence.

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    The World with AFP

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