14 July 2020

The challenges brought to the independence of the French Public Prosecutor’s Office

Bastille Day Newsletter 2020 - 3-lines outline of some noteworthy events


Recent statements by the former French Financial Prosecutor, Eliane Houlette, before the Parliamentary Board of Inquiry [1], has revived the debate on the independence of the French Prosecutor vis-à-vis the executive power.

Indeed, she stated that the independence of French prosecutors, in particular of the French Financial Prosecutor Office (“PNF”), is hampered by a number of obstacles [2]. Among these, the power of the General Prosecutor’s Office, directly linked to the Minister for Justice, to provide general instructions and to request reports on pending cases from the PNF:

“So, in practical and concrete terms, the feeling of dependency [from the executive power] is something I have experienced within the performance of my duties. […] the problem is that through general instructions and special reports, the General Prosecutor’s Office grants himself a right of oversight over the conduct and policy choices of public prosecutors. […] And this right to oversee is omnipresent. […] The question that we can actually ask ourselves is why does the General Prosecutor’s Office have this right to oversee the public prosecution, through specific cases? How should we understand it? Is he acting for himself or for someone else? ” [3].

These statements caused quite a stir, namely considering that Eliane Houlette conducted the investigation of the former French prime Minister François Fillon and his wife, who were accused of misappropriation of public assets and that she reported pressure from the General Prosecutor’s Office to provide and communicate information pertaining to this case.

Another former investigative magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, condemned the lack of independence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, stating that politicians have never lobbied for it [4].

In addition, a few days before his appointment as French Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond Moretti, a French criminal lawyer, filed a complaint against X before the Paris Prosecutor office after having been secretly wiretapped by the PNF during an investigation held in 2014 regarding corruption facts involving the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy [5]. He finally withdrew his complaint after his appointment and stated that he will campaign for the reform regarding the independence of the justice:

I want to progress on a subject that is close to my heart: the independence of the justice system. I wish to be the Minister of Justice who will finally bring the long-awaited reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to a congress” [6].

Related content

27 February 2024
New sustainability reporting obligations in France: what’s new?
Navacelle contributes to The Legal Industry Reviews' fifth edition about the transposition of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in...
The discreet ramping up of environmental criminal law
5 December 2023
The discreet ramping up of environmental criminal law
Navacelle contributes to The Legal Industry Reviews' fourth edition about recent gradual application of environmental criminal law in France, with...
17 November 2023
Saga UBS: second reassessment of the UBS’s historic financial penalty
On November 15, 2023, as part of the UBS saga that began on 20 February 2019, the judges on the...
26 February 2024
A flexible approach of the principle of loyalty regarding the evidence in civil matters –...
The decision of 22 December 2023 recognizes the admissibility of evidence obtained or produced in an illicit or unfair manner...
Press review
23 February 2024
Press review – Week of 19 February 2024
This week’s press review covers Donald Trump and his sons’ conviction for fraud in New York, the decision of Paris...
22 February 2024
New clarifications on the repression of tax fraud offences and tax fraud laundering by the...
On 13 December 2023, the Cour de cassation first ruled on the concept of non bis in idem, rejecting the...
21 February 2024
Paris Arbitration Week 2024 – Ethics & Arbitration panel
Navacelle is hosting a panel regarding Ethics & Arbitration on 19 March 2024, during the Paris Arbitration Week (PAW).
20 February 2024
A French dairy group suspected of tax fraud
Since 2018, Lactalis has been suspected of committing tax fraud and laundering the proceeds of such fraud via schemes involving...
Press review
16 February 2024
Press review – Week of 12 February 2024
This week’s press review looks back at the legacy of former French minister of Justice Robert Badinter who recently passed...
Press review
9 February 2024
Press review – Week of 5 February 2024
This week’s press review highlights the acquittal of former minister and mayor of Pau, François Bayrou, the accusation of a...
Press review
2 February 2024
Press review – Week of 29 January 2024
This week’s press review highlights the Transparency report on France's global position in the fight against corruption, Uber's fine in...
30 January 2024
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office and TRACFIN signed a working arrangement for closer cooperation
In accordance with the principle of sincere cooperation between Member States and with the European Union's institutions, provided for in...
Press review
26 January 2024
Press review – Week of 22 January 2024
This week’s press review highlights Amazon’s 32 million euro fine by a French administrative authority for the monitoring of its...
25 January 2024
Internal investigation and data collection
EFB Degree - Internal investigation Internal investigation and data collection: In many respects, data collection is crucial in conducting an internal...