Publication
4 February 2021

PNF opens fewer cases amid pandemic slowdown

Julie Zorrilla interviewed on France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) performance over the past two years.

 

France’s main anti-corruption enforcer took on fewer new cases in 2020 than the year before, a dip in activity most likely caused by the coronavirus.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request by GIR, France’s National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) said that it opened 735 new cases in 2020, down from 757 in 2079.

The PNF currently has 603 cases open in total as of 7 February, according to the agency’s own figures, covering three types of offences: market abuse, probity and damage to public finances.

The PNF defines probity cases as those centring on corruption, influence peddling and embezzlement, favouritism, illegal taking of public interest and electoral fraud.

lt said that it has 372 probity cases open, up from 294 at the end of 2079. Market abuse cases meanwhile went up from 42 to 46 over the same period, while damage to public finances cases, which include investigations into tax fraud and money laundering, went up by one to 245.

French lawyers said they noticed a dip in activity from the agency du ring the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic, but that things largely returned to normal by August 2020.

Thomas Baudesson at Clifford Chance in Paris said that the PNF managed well du ring the pandemic, which made certain investigative tasks like interviews and dawn raids more difficult.

Joydeep Sengupta at Mayer Brown in Paris said that the increase in probity cases may represent the PNF’s bigger appetite for pursuing corruption and tax fraud following its success in various recent high-profile matters linked to prominent multinationals.

The PNF’s efforts to punish corruption have been headlined by it leading the bribery investigation into aircraft manufacturer Airbus that resulted in a record­ breaking foreign bribery settlement. ln January 2020, the Company agreed to pay $4 billion to France, the UK and the US to resolve allegations of bribery offences a cross 16 countries. Other significant enforcement actions include the conviction of Swiss bank UBS in February 2019 for facilitating tax evasion. The bank, which is appealing against the decision, was ordered to pay a €3.7 billion fine. The PNF also signed a €500 million tax resolution with Google’s European arm in September 2019.

The cases contributed to the agency winning GIR’s enforcement agency of the year award in October.

Among the PNF’s biggest current cases are a tax evasion investigation into the French arm of JPMorgan, which has not commented publicly on the matter, and a corruption probe focused on French engineering company Alstom and the sale of its energy division to US energy company General Electric. The company denies wrong doing.

The PNF began operations in 2014 and significantly boosted its activity after it was granted the power to offer companies judicial public interest agreements, France’s answer to a deferred prosecution agreement, under the sweeping Sapin Il anti-corruption law in 2017.

Commenting on the agency’s performance over the past two years, Julie Zorrilla at Navacelle in Paris said: “the PNF has in effect matured into a coherent, consistent body, building on acting principles open to discussion with lawyers, yet still demanding“.

Related content

Press review
Press review - Week of 26 September 2022
30 September 2022
Press review – Week of 26 September 2022
In this press review, you will find an analysis of a recent decision of the French Cour de cassation which reiterates the legal obligations of financial institutions rega...
Press review
Press review - Week of 19 September 2022
23 September 2022
Press review – Week of 19 September 2022
In this week's press review, you will discover the criminal initiatives at the European Union level announced by the President of the European Commission, and the new Fre...
Press review
Press review - Week of 12 September 2022
16 September 2022
Press review – Week of 12 September 2022
In this week's press review, you will find three articles on white collar crime. Firstly, clarifications related to the cumulation of qualification for tax fraud and omis...
Press review
Press review - Week of 29 August 2022
2 September 2022
Press review – Week of 29 August 2022
In this press review you will find the implications for France following the delay of transposition of the European directive on whistleblowers. The French Conseil d'Etat...
Press review
Press review - Week of 25 july 2022
29 July 2022
Press review – Week of 25 July 2022
In this review, you will discover two CNIL’s recent decisions, the first one aiming at protecting data rental cars’ users and the second one aiming at regulating the ...
Press review
Press review - Week of 11 july 2022
15 July 2022
Press review – Week of 11 July 2022
In this press review you will find a decision of the French Cour de cassation which clarifies the interpretation of the principle of speciality in extradition matters. Mo...
Analysis
Transposition of the European Whistleblowers Directive: Towards a reinforcement of the French protection system
14 July 2022
Transposition of the European Whistleblowers Directive: Towards a reinforcement of the French protection system
The text of the law aimed at improving the protection of whistleblowers, drafted by the Joint Committee, was approved by the National Assembly on 8 February and by the Se...
Analysis
The challenges of environmental criminal law in the light of the deferred prosecution agreement in environmental matters
14 July 2022
The challenges of environmental criminal law in the light of the deferred prosecution agreement in environmental matters
A new deferred prosecution agreement in environmental matters is an opportunity to review the creation of this new mechanism serving French environmental criminal law, bu...
Publication
BDN 2022
14 July 2022
Bastille Day Newsletter 2022
On this 14th of July, lawyers at Navacelle offer you, as it does every year, a selection of noticeable events which occurred in France during the last 12 months in the fi...
Analysis
transfer of criminal liability following a merger or acquisition
14 July 2022
Transfer of criminal liability following a merger or acquisition
In a ruling of April 13, 2022, the Court clarified the nature of the control that must be performed by judges on prosecutions against absorbing companies after its histor...
Analysis
The cumulation of criminal and administrative sanctions in tax fraud
14 July 2022
The cumulation of criminal and administrative sanctions in tax fraud
The judges of the Court of Cassation recently ruled on the cumulation of criminal and fiscal sanctions in tax fraud cases. This decision confirms the case law which permi...
Publication
The Guide to Sanctions -GIR (2022)
10 July 2022
The Guide to Sanctions (2022) – GIR
Navacelle co-author of the third edition of the Global Investigation Review's Guide to Sanctions.