Press review
22 December 2023

Press review – Week of 18 December 2023

This week's press review looks at the first hearings in Rabat in the “Qatarargate” corruption affair in the European Parliament, the conviction of Servier on appeal in the Mediator case, the conviction of a former Latvian governor of the ECB for corruption and the sale of property belonging to Bashar al-Assad's uncle in the “ill-gotten gains” affair. In addition, Navacelle analyzes the La Poste case, the first substantive ruling on the duty of diligence, and France’s transposition of the CSRD directive.


#Corruption: Suspected corruption in the European Parliament: first hearings in Rabat

As part of an international letter rogatory, several investigators, accompanied by the investigating judge in charge of the case and a Belgian federal magistrate, took part in hearings in Morocco as part of the investigation into the “Qatargate” scandal. This case concerns the possible corruption of MEPs in favour of Morocco and Qatar. The investigation, which began in the summer of 2012 on the basis of Belgian intelligence reports, focuses on a number of senior officials, including the Qatari Minister of Labour, Ali bin Samikh al-Marri. Abderrahim Atmoun, Morocco’s current ambassador to Poland, is also suspected of offering money and gifts to former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri to use his influence in favour of Morocco in the European Parliament. After agreeing to cooperate with the investigation, Pier Antoni Panzeri was granted repentant status in exchange for a reduced prison sentence. Three MEPs, Eva Kaili, Marc Tarabella and Andrea Cozzolino, are among the seven people currently being prosecuted. > Read article


White collar crime: Mediator trial: Servier group condemned on appeal to reimburse more than 415 million euros to healthcare institutions

On Wednesday 20 December, the Court of Appeal ordered the Servier group to pay fines totaling more than €9 million and to repay more than €415 million to social security bodies and mutual insurers. The group was found guilty of fraud, misrepresentation, aggravated deceit, unintentional manslaughter and unintentional injury in connection with the marketing of Mediator, a diabetes drug that was misused as an appetite suppressant. The drug was withdrawn from the market in 2009 after it was linked to heart damage, high blood pressure and the deaths of several hundred people. 7,650 people have filed civil claims for deceit, but another 5,000 cases remain to be investigated, this time for unintentional manslaughter or unintentional injury. > Read article


Former ECB governor convicted of corruption in Latvia

Ilmars Rimsevics, former Governor of the Bank of Latvia between 2001 and 2019 and member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank, has been found guilty of corruption. In 2010, Rimsevics received bribes totaling half a million euros in exchange for “advice” to the Russian bank Trasta Komercbanka at a time when it had “delicate” relations with the Latvian banking regulator. His immunity was lifted after the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed in December last year, in response to a preliminary question from Latvian judges, that the immunity of ECB directors could indeed be lifted in the case of serious offences such as fraud, corruption or money laundering. Ilmars Rimsevics therefore faces a six-year prison sentence, the confiscation of his assets and a five-year ban from holding public office. > Read article


Two towers in Lyon owned by Bashar al-Assad’s uncle up for sale

The Lyon real estate assets of Rifaat el-Assad, convicted in September 2022 for “illicit gains”, have been put up for sale, the Agency for the Management and Recovery of Seized and Confiscated Assets (Agrasc) has announced. The two office towers, held through Luxembourg companies, are part of the assets fraudulently built up by Bashar el-Assad’s uncle and estimated to be worth 90 million euros. Agrasc has also announced that further sales of this kind are to be expected in this case. > Read article


#Ethics and Compliance: La Poste case: first decision on the substance of the duty of diligence

On 5 December 2023, after more than three years of proceedings, the Paris judicial court finally issued its decision in the case between the SUD PTT trade union and the company La Poste regarding the latter’s due diligence plan. This decision is the first decision on the substance of the duty of diligence. The Paris judicial court took this opportunity to further clarify the obligations of the due diligence plan, as set out in the French Commercial Code. > Read article


Transposition of the CSRD: new sustainability reporting obligations for French companies

France is the first Member State to transpose the CSRD or Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive with an order issued by the Government on 6 December 2023. This order aims to replace the current extra-financial performance declaration (déclaration de performance extra-financière or DPEF) system with that of sustainability reporting, as well as to simplify and clarify other CSR reporting mechanisms. > Read article

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