Chapter III - A Mythomaniac Witness
who betrays loses, and others with him.
La Chanson de Roland
The first case apparently incidental to the main procedure was in fact at the heart of it. This new affair was linked to the preposterous declarations of Denis Gazeau and also reveals a perverse behavior on the part of the judicial institutions.
The origins of this affair stem from two letters that were addressed to me personally as CEO of Alcatel Alsthom. The first letter was dated November 18, 1994 and the second the following December 5. They came from a British company which (and this was verified) acted as a consultant for governmental agencies and commercial enterprises in the civil and military communications areas.
These documents brought to my attention the secret activities of a competitor, whose name was cited, aimed at undermining Alcatel. Three examples were given: The recent loss of an important contract in Saudi Arabia; a copy of the technical solution that we had proposed for equipment for the third mobile telephone operator in France; and certain commercial destabilization plans in France and abroad. According to the letters there were “certain employees of your company who furnish certain information to your competitor and who are paid indirectly by it.”
Faced with the gravity of these accusations, even though at this stage their wording was vague, I couldn’t ignore the information received. This also was the opinion of the Executive Committee, to which I submitted the affair. So on November 21, I asked Louis Companyo to find out what public information was available on the British company that had written the letters. I also asked him to contact the Domestic Intelligence Agency and to inform them of the industrial espionage. Mr. Campanyo was the CEO of Alcatel Trade International and was familiar, because of his responsibilities, with the functions of the authorities in charge of commercial security.
In parallel and by chance, I found myself being the invited lecturer at lunch at the Conseil France de l’INSEAD at Fontainebleau on November 22. I received many questions regarding the accusations of overbilling of France Telecom that the press published without constraints6 and particularly on the damage that this campaign might cause Alcatel. I responded by repeating what Alcatel CIT never ceased to say—as, for example, in its press release of the preceding October: “Alcatel CIT confirms that it considers as absurd the exaggerated figures reported by certain media and confirms that there has been neither overbilling nor double accounting in any sector of activity.”
Mr. Alain Mérieux participated at the lunch. He told me of his recent experience with a campaign of destabilization and warned me against malicious actions of competitors that were always possible. He said one of his friends, Mr. Claude Bardon, an inspector general of the national police and former director of the Domestic Intelligence Agency, could be useful as a consultant. Mr. Mérieux later confirmed all of this at his hearing before an investigating judge: “Having myself experienced, in November and December 1992, these attacks and media turbulence, I recommended to Mr. Suard that he find some consultants outside the company who work in the more sensitive areas on problems of destabilization or espionage or industrial competition.”
I immediately made the connection with the denunciations that I had just received, without of course mentioning it to the person with whom I was speaking.
I therefore got in contact with Mr. Bardon, who I saw three times for breakfast, not “in my personal residence,” as the Public Prosecutor maliciously wrote in his 2004 indictment, but simply at a location that Alcatel Alsthom possessed for receiving important visitors.
I met Mr. Bardon for the first time on December 2, 1994. I saw him again before Christmas and then again at the beginning of January. We of course talked about the media campaign of which Alcatel was a victim. I gave him various anonymous letters that we had received and especially a copy of the letters (which were signed) that I had received from London. I told him that the Domestic Intelligence Agency had been brought in. He asked me if I had any idea about the kind of destabilizing effect that this could have on Alcatel. I mentioned the risk that this slanderous campaign about the overbilling of France Telecom could have for Alcatel CIT. France Telecom in fact was about to launch, in the days that followed, a request for offers for the furnishing of switching equipment for the three years 1995 to 1997. There were ₣10 to 12 billion at stake for Alcatel CIT. The press frequently evoked the risk of commercial reprisals.
In fact, there were recurrent news reports letting it be known that France Telecom could reduce its orders from Alcatel CIT and give them to Alcatel’s competitor Matra-Ericsson. Thus, in the December 2 edition of Le Figaro: “CIT is today the number 1 supplier of France Telecom in public switching, the supreme market for telecommunications. The firm has 85% of the French market, against 15% for MET, a joint venture between Matra and the Swedish company Ericsson…” The article concluded: “France Telecom could reduce the orders given to CIT and increase those for its competitor MET. The response will come in a few weeks” Or L’Express on December 1: “If there was concealment, it is effectively a system which is collapsing. If this were not the case, the publicity made over this affair would no doubt represent for CIT the loss of several billions of contracts.” Or, further, La Tribune Desfossés of December 16: “But it is indisputable that France Telecom, which until now has had privileged relations with its supplier of switching material (85% of central office switches) is on the way to causing CIT to pay for the supposed tendencies at overbilling.”
In examining with Mr. Bardon the genesis of this campaign and in line with the accusations coming from London, it seemed necessary to determine whether these maneuvers surrounding France Telecom were organized by a competitor. We knew there could not have been any overbillings. What, then, could have been the motivation of the author of this incredible slander campaign which indisputably caused a major harm to Alcatel CIT?
It involved Mr. Denis Gazeau, whose name had been revealed by the press in generously reproducing his accusations. This accountant, who had worked in the group for twenty years, had just been fired by Alcatel CIT in July 1994. In spite of the serious grounds justifying that decision, the protocol for settlements that governed the conditions of his departure required that he be paid a sum of nearly a million Francs. Moreover, Alcatel CIT provided him with the out placement service of a firm specialized in that area to help him find a new job. Mr. Gazeau left Alcatel CIT on July 31. At the end of August he contacted the financial police of the SRPJ of Versailles to tell them about the alleged overbillings of France Telecom by the switching branch of Alcatel CIT—overbillings that he valued at ₣2 billion.
Mr. Gazeau’s statements, which he repeated in October to the investigating judge at Evry, were published by the press, which was informed by “sources close to the investigation”—a practice that was well established at Evry in spite of the fact that the investigation was supposed to be conducted in secrecy. The investigation became the subject of an intense media campaign which reached its peak on November 22. On that date the investigating judge heard Pierre Guichet, President of Alcatel CIT, on the alleged overbillings of the switching branch, and then indicted Mr. Guichet and put him jail. Happily the Chambre d’accusation7 of the Cour d’appel de Paris ordered his release eleven days later.
The strange behavior of Mr. Gazeau and the catastrophic consequences for Alcatel CIT of his declarations—and especially on the eve of the request for offers from France Telecom—caused one to wonder about the role that he might have played in the destabilization campaign orchestrated by the competitors. To investigate this possibility, Mr. Bardon proposed to me that an investigation be conducted in the course of which one could get a picture of a “slice of the life” of Mr. Gazeau. It was a question, considering the urgency, of verifying a hypothesis so that, if need be, the police service that had already been contacted could be informed of all the facts surrounding the denunciations in the letters received from London.
At his request, I gave Mr. Bardon, after our two following meetings, a mobile telephone that he could use in his work, as well as ₣30,000 in cash to cover the expenses of his investigation. I paid him with funds withdrawn from my personal account. I did that in order not prematurely to attract the attention of the accounting department, planning ultimately to regularize the transaction. I did not see Mr. Bardon again or follow his research. I learned during February from the colleague charged with keeping in contact with Mr. Bardon, that he stopped his investigation, having found nothing abnormal in the behavior of Mr. Gazeau. For me this affair was terminated.
But it was going to resurface on March 1 and take on a degree of importance that I could never have imagined. On that day, the investigating judge of Evry interrogated (and had the police interrogate) Mr. Bardon and the other protagonists in the affair. During the weeks that followed I would progressively discover the substance of these interrogations.
Mr. Bardon had decided to have the movements of the former accountant observed by a retired policeman whom he knew when he was in his post in Versailles. The surveillance of Mr. Gazeau, no doubt poorly performed, was quickly detected. The police were alerted. They opened an investigation, set up wiretaps and did some questioning. The result of these investigations, contained in a thick file, excited the judge, who saw in it a maneuver to intimidate a witness and (why not?) the judiciary itself. He tried on several occasions to charge me for this “affair in the affair.”
On March 10 the investigating judge interrogated me for a long time—all afternoon—on the assignment of Mr. Bardon. I explained to him, as I would repeat during the following years to another investigating judge, then to the Tribunal, why I could not avoid following up on the grave accusations of espionage that had come from London and the major consequences for Alcatel CIT that came from the calumnious campaign on the alleged overbillings. Towards 7 pm he suspended my interrogation in order, once again, to ask the Office of the Public Prosecutor for an order giving him authority (“to accord him what belonged to him”) over the new facts that the investigation had brought to light. Refusal once again by the Public Prosecutor, who simply appended to the order given to the investigating judge the statement: “Seen at the Office of the Public Prosecutor the 10th of March 1995.”
After receiving this refusal, the judge, at about 7:30 pm, continued with my interrogation for a session that didn’t last more than ten minutes. Then, without explanation or transition, always rather impenetrable, he withdrew from his desk drawer a text that had already been prepared by the terms of which he indicted me. He indicted me not for the affair on which he had interrogated me all afternoon, but for fraud and benefiting from stolen property to the detriment of France Telecom because of the alleged overbillings, about which he had not questioned me, and he imposed on me a judicial control that forbade me from working for Alcatel Alsthom. So that is how the decision was taken that later would lead to the sinking of the group!
In parallel, on March 7, Mr. Gazeau had spontaneously (?) filed a simple complaint to the Public Prosecutor for subordination of a witness, defamation and insults. On June 22, the Public Prosecutor closed the case without further action, determining that the facts on which the complaint was based could not justify the bringing of a public action.
Mr. Gazeau had also filed, on April 11, with the Conseil des Prud’hommes de Paris a demand against Alcatel CIT to obtain the payment of an indemnity of more than ₣4 million for termination “without real or serious cause,” as well as for damages for “moral prejudice, persecution and attack on one’s private life.” By a judgment dated November 2, 1996 the Conseil des Prud’hommes declared that Mr. Gazeau’s demands were inadmissible and by order dated December 19, 1997 the Cour d’appel de Paris confirmed that judgment.
But after his complaint to the Office of the Public Prosecutor on March 7, 1995, Mr. Gazeau had also filed a complaint, with constitution as civil plaintiff, against X. The complaint was filed with the Doyen des juges d’instruction of the Tribunal de grande instance d’Evry and alleged “blackmail, attempt to suborn a witness and defamation.” In this complaint Mr. Gazeau claimed to have been the object of menaces and pressure from the Alcatel Alsthom group following his denunciation in August 1994 before the police of Versailles. The alleged pressure resulted from the fact that, on November 30, the Director of Human Relations of Alcatel CIT had terminated Mr. Gazeau’s out placement contract and from the surveillance that Alcatel Alsthom had set in motion. According to the complainant, these actions had taken the form (“more condemnable still”) of an attack on his honor in various press articles.
On June 27, 1995 the investigating judge opened an official inquiry. Several years later Mr. Bardon and I were indicted (in May 2000 insofar as I was concerned) for subordination of a witness and attempted blackmail, after having been interrogated by a new investigating judge, to whom I had repeated what I had already said to judge Jean-Marie d’Huy on March 10, 1995. Mr. Gazeau had also alleged defamation. However, that claim was abandoned after an appeal by my lawyer, who argued, with success, that for procedural reasons a defamation claim could not be retained. The Director of Human Relations of Alcatel CIT was also interrogated (as assisting witness) on the conditions surrounding the termination of Mr. Gazeau’s out placement contract. He stated to the investigating judge that he had decided, on his own initiative, to put an end to that contact after Mr. Gazeau himself rendered it improbable that he could be rehired because of his accusations, which had been taken up by the press, and that in any event Alcatel CIT was not obliged to provide Denis Gazeau that service.
By order dated May 26, 2002, following the request for indictments of the Public Prosecutor the preceding May 19, the new investigating judge (who had replaced the one who questioned me in 2000) decided to dismiss the charge of attempted blackmail, but retained, insofar as I was concerned, the charge of subordination of a witness, except that she reclassified it as complicity since it was impossible to pretend that I personally had acted with respect to Mr. Gazeau. The affair was sent before the Tribunal correctionnel d’Evry on May 2004.
I was reproached, more precisely, for being an accomplice to a subordination of a witness because I would have given the instructions, in the first place, to proceed with the surveillance of Denis Gazeau and, in the second place, for terminating Mr. Gazeau’s out placement contract.
On the second point, the position of the Public Prosecutor and of the investigating judge was singularly lacking in logic. I was sent before the Tribunalas an accomplice even though I had denied giving such an instruction, that I was unaware of the existence of the contract and the author of the alleged infraction was not himself brought before the Tribunal. The Director of Human Relations of Alcatel CIT, who was interrogated, as I recall, as a witness, had in effect stated during the investigation that he alone decided to terminate the contract, which he had the power to do, without any influence from the general management of Alcatel CIT and, a fortiori, from the group. So he admitted unambiguously to being the author of the infraction of which I was accused of being an accomplice and yet he was not bothered, for which I was very happy for him. But where is the logic of this investigating judge who accuses one of being an accomplice and yet spares the author of the presumed offense? The Tribunal, immediately sensitive to this incoherence, threw out the complaint without debate.
On the first point—the subordination of a witness—my lawyer demonstrated with good authority that the conditions for a subordination of a witness had not been met. There was no pressure or threat and the surveillance was not designed to obtain a witness or the statements of Denis Gazeau. To the contrary, it was to be done with discretion and at a distance so Mr. Gazeau would not be aware of it. This was categorically proved by a telephone conversation (intercepted) in the course of which the policeman who was handling the surveillance said to a colleague that he sensed he had been discovered and asked his colleague to relay the message. This important document, which had been in the file since February 1995, proved that no pressure or threat had been exercised. It was a question simply of informing oneself with all discretion. Obviously those who conducted the operation did not display a great professionalism!
At the hearing, the representative of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, recognizing that in this affair the conditions for a subordination of a witness were not satisfied and reminding us that the Penal Code had to be strictly interpreted, demanded, firmly and eloquently, that the Tribunal pronounce an acquittal in favor of the accused. That is what the Tribunal decided on September 7, 2004.
Thus terminated this strange annex to the France Telecom affair. I remain struck by several aspects.
It took nearly 10 years for this affair to be judged. I am told this is a normal period today. But to maintain under threat of sanction for 10 years people who are finally determined to be innocent is not worthy of a country which wants to consider itself the birthplace of human rights.
On this occasion I could also confirm, one more time, that the media was much more verbose when accusing one than in clearing him. The decision of the Tribunal was reported in a short press release from the AFP, though it was taken up very little. So the great daily newspapers which all, in March 1995, published extensively on the “affair in the affair,” with titles in large letters, ignored the release from AFP. Les Echos and Le Parisien were exceptions. They ran articles that appeared after September 8 and which correctly summarized the hearing and the decision of the Tribunal. The articles were entitled: “The ex-CEO of Alcatel is Cleared.”
In substance it must be recognized that from the beginning the Public Prosecutor of Evry had a correct perception of this affair (finally shown to be without substance), but the investigating judge obviously wanted it to drag on. The Public Prosecutor objected several times to the case being investigated. He also considered that, should it be investigated, in any case it should not be conducted by the same investigating judge as the one who was handling the France Telecom affair. Finally, 9 years later, the Tribunal, in pronouncing a general acquittal, justified the analysis that the Public Prosecutor made on the spot in March 1995.
I am also struck by the tenacity of Mr. Gazeau. His action before the Conseil des Prud’hommes is understandable. However, he should have taken into consideration the immense damage that his excessive declarations could cause his employer. But the successive complaints that he made, the various accusations that he put forth and finally his absence at the hearing when the Tribunal judged his complaint regarding his being constituted as a civil plaintiff in May 2004, put a cloud over the true motivations of his procedural relentlessness of March and April 1995, which, it is true, benefited opportunely the diverse attempts of the investigating judge to bring this affair within his authority.
In retrospect, it would seem that the judge in charge of the affair regarding the overbilling for work performed for France Telecom saw in the surveillance of Denis Gazeau a perfect way to charge me, knowing the weakness of his case on the other points. This hypothesis would make it possible to understand his readiness, when setting forth the conditions of the judicial control that he imposed on me on March 10, to validate the preposterous declarations of the former accountant, then his repeated efforts to enlarge his authority, and finally, confronted with the decision of the Office of the Public Prosecutor, to violate his obligation to abide by that decision.
In effect, apparently motivated by the necessity of protecting the investigation on the alleged overbillings of France Telecom, the judicial control forbade me from meeting any employee of France Telecom or Alcatel Alsthom, but also Mr. Bardon and the other persons involved in the investigation related to the surveillance of Denis Gazeau. They were moreover the only people that I was forbidden to see after my judicial control was reformed on appeal. It is natural to deduce from this the implicit importance of the surveillance of Denis Gazeau in the decision that Jean-Marie d’Huy took on march 10, 1995. By forbidding me from working for Alcatel Alsthom, therefore condemning me of heavy charges whatever the judicial decisions ultimately would be, he took on this heavy responsibility in relying also on facts which he was not authorized to investigate and on which I would be acquitted 9 years later.
goes “justice” at the Tribunal
d’Evry in 1995, and
this with complete impunity.
6 For example, Le Monde of October 20, 1994 stated: “The former head of internal audit at Alcatel CIT, who was fired in July, denounced the irregularities that, he says, he was able to observe from the post that he occupied…To go by what he says, the financial flow is considerable—between one and two billions of Francs between 1990 and 1993—arising from the overbilling of the prices charged France Telecom.”
7 The Chambre d’accusation was renamed the Chambre d’instruction in June 2000. (Translator’s Note)