is not for me; it is for those who have
Socrates, at the conclusion of his trial
On March 15, 1995, a few days after I was indicted in the affair of the alleged overbilling of France Telecom, which would become the “Alcatel affair” and even the “Suard affair,” Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, a TV station director, permitted me to speak for a long time during the 8 pm nightly news on the channel France 2. That night I denounced, before a TV audience of millions of people, the beginning of a major judicial error and I recalled the painful and celebrated precedents—the condemnation of Captain Dreyfus and the Notary de Bruay in Artois. Today, I would have added the innocent victims of the Outreau affaire. These words triggered emotion and skepticism, but also sarcasm among those who attributed them to a desperate man.
In the course of one of my interrogations I said to judge Jean-Marie d’Huy (who conducted the investigation) that the untruthful accusations directed against Alcatel and its executives, which he believed, would gravely injure Alcatel CIT and would end by making it lose several hundreds of jobs. At the time I was far from imaging the extent of the drama that was going to ruin the whole group Alcatel Alsthom! He responded with a neutral voice: “But there are serious offenses.”
Well, no, Mr. Judge, twelve years later one of your successors at the Tribunal d’Evry was going to present you with a scathing refutation. In conformity with the requests for indictment from the Office of the Public Prosecutor, your successor, with courage and discretion, dismissed the case against Pierre Guichet, President of Alcatel CIT, whom you had caused to be imprisoned, as well as his colleagues and me in this affair of alleged overbilling. He rendered their dignity to seven people who had been mistakenly indicted. He exonerated of all charges the CEO of the largest industrial group in France whom you had deprived of his job and discredited twelve years earlier, at the beginning of the incredible investigation that you conducted and which demonstrated the abuses that became evident later in the Outreau affaire: Believing dubious witnesses; concealing essential documents; using conniving experts; rejecting elements and facts favorable to the accused; and using the media to make biased and systematic leaks to the press.
This partisan investigation produced great suffering, ruined professional and personal lives, caused thousands of people to lose their jobs, and irreparably condemned to destruction Alcatel Alsthom, the French group that at the time was a world leader and which, confided to inexperienced hands, sank over the course of 12 years of agony
It is my perception of the truth over these dark years that I have tried to deliver in this book, before leaving this world. I of course retained written records of all the events that I describe here.
Jean-Pierre Elkabbach is a French journalist.