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Translator's note

Translated from French by James E. Terrell
French words and phrases. Certain French words and phrases are not easily translatable into English because they have special meanings and no real Anglo-American equivalent—such as the names of the various French courts. As a result, the French words are used in this translation. Below is a list of those French words and phrases, along with a brief description of each:

Chambre d’instruction

The appeals court for decisions from the investigating judge.


Office of the Ministry of Justice. It is equivalent to the office of the Attorney General in the United States.

Commissaires aux comptes

Statutory auditors of financial accounts.

Conseil d’Etat

The Supreme Court in France for administrative litigation between citizens and the State, regions and municipalities. It is the highest legal authority in these matters and its decisions are not appealable. It also gives advice on proposed legislation submitted by the French President, members of the Government and by the Parliament.

Conseil de Prud’hommes

This is a first-stage jurisdiction for handling, among other things, disputes regarding the execution or breach of employment contracts between employers and their salaried employees involving questions of civil (as opposed to public) law. It is composed of elected representatives of employers and employees who are not professional judges.

Cour d’appel

This is the court to which decisions from various courts and bodies on civil, commercial, social and penal matters are appealed. Among others, decisions from the following are appealed to this court:

. Tribunal d’instance (for affairs where the demand is over €4,000, or the amount is determined)

. Tribunal de grande instance

. Tribunal de commerce

. Conseil de prud’hommes (involving amounts over €4,000)

. Tribunal de police

. Tribunal correctionnel

. juge d’instruction

Decisions of the Cour d’appel may be appealed to the Cour de Cassation.

Cour de Cassation

The highest court in France, located at the Palais de Justice in Paris. It has appellate jurisdiction only. Appeals are made from the various Tribunals and Cour d’Appel. It decides both criminal and civil cases. The court decides only questions of law; it does not make judgments about facts, which are always submitted to the Cour d’Appel.

Cour des Comptes

The public auditing commission. This high level administrative body audits the financial accounts of the State, local administrative entities, publicly owned enterprises, the social security, and non-profit organizations that receive public aid or support. It reports its findings to Parliament, the Government and the public. Its headquarters is located in Paris.

Outreau affaire

A closely followed criminal investigation and trial in France. The investigation commenced in 2001 with accusations from children and certain adults in the town of Outreau that the children were abused. The investigation lasted nearly 3 years and ended in the indictment of 18 people, many the parents of the accusing children. The parents were imprisoned by the investigating judge for periods of 1 to 3 years while his investigation was carried out. One of these persons died in prison of a medical overdose, perhaps a suicide. It was determined at the trial that the accusations on which the charges were based were totally without basis. The affair, which lasted 5 years from beginning to end, demonstrated the dysfunction of the French judicial system, the abuses that an investigating judge can make of his powers (such as indicting and imprisoning innocent people based solely on false accusations and using incompetent “experts”), the lack of respect for the presumption of innocence, the role that an irresponsible media can play, and the terrible suffering that results for the innocent individuals unjustly charged.

Following the Outreau affaire there was an intense public debate in France about curtailing or better controlling the powers of the juge d’instruction. The book describes the powers of these judges and in the opinion of the author how they have been abused in the cases which he describes.


See the definition below of Tribunal correctional d’Evry, which is a Tribunal located in a particular city.

Tribunal correctionnel d’Evry

This is a first level penal court. This one is located in the city of Evry, a suburb of Paris. This court has jurisdiction over “délits” – offences which are not qualified as crimes by the Penal Code. There are other courts, with a jury system, for judging crimes.

Tribunal de grande instance

Composed of three judges, it adjudicates on civil litigation involving amounts in excess of €10,000 between private persons that the law does not accord to another jurisdiction It has exclusive jurisdiction (without regard to the amount involved) over disputes concerning the family, inheritances, and defamation, among others.

Vice-doyen [or Doyen] des juges d’instruction

The assistant dean [or Dean] of the network of investigating judges.



Other French words are easily translatable into English but still have a special meaning in French. In this book, the English translation is used. However, to make the terms more meaningful to the reader, the list below provides a brief description.

Civil plaintiff (partie civile in French)

Under the French system, individuals and companies are permitted to assert themselves into a criminal proceeding, ask for damages against the persons charged, and become, in a sense, a co-prosecutor. They are referred to in this translation as “civil plaintiffs.”

Investigating judge (juge d’instruction in French)

The Anglo-American legal system does not have a judge with the set of powers accorded the juge d’instruction in France. Those powers include the ability not only to investigate a crime, but also to indict and imprison for up to six months. The judge is able to draw on the police to assist in the investigations. The powers are further explained in the book and in Stephan Guerin’s Preface to the English Edition, below.

Judicial control (contrôle judiciaire in French)

When an investigating judge imposes a “contrôle judiciaire” on an individual, that person is restricted in specific ways. For example, a person charged with a crime may be prohibited from speaking with or coming into contact with potential witnesses. The contrôle judiciaire imposed on the author of this book included preventing any contact with his company, thus forcing him to have to leave the company.

Public Prosecutor (Procureur in French)

Under the French system the investigating judge acts independently of the Public Prosecutor, though, as will be seen, the Public Prosecutor can override certain decisions of the judge.


FRENCH Francs (₣) and Euros (€)

Since a large part of the story in this book predates the introduction of the Euro on January 1, 2002, many figures are given in French Francs. The following equivalencies will help the reader better understand the magnitude of the amounts involved:

₣1 billion = € 152.5 million [converted at the rate at which the Franc entered the Euro

on January 1, 2002]

₣1 billion = approximately £ 140 million at current rates

₣1 billion = approximately $ 200 million at current rates


Background on Company Names

The background information below is provided to help the reader understand the evolution of the names of some of the more important companies that figure in the story told in this book and in particular the evolution of the “Alcatel” name. More of the history can be found at various places in the book and in Mr. Suard’s 2002 book, L’envol saboté d’Alcatel Alsthom (“Alcatel Alsthom—Shot Down in Mid-Flight”).

Sometimes in the book the term “Alcatel” refers only to the telecommunications subsidiary of the parent company CGE (later renamed “Alcatel Alshtom”). Sometimes it is used as a shorthand way of referring to what is technically “Alcatel Alsthom,” and, as will be seen, “Alcatel Alsthom” at one point changed its name simply to “Alcatel.” The explanation below may help the reader better understand these changes.

Compagnie Générale d’Electricité (1898)

Alcatel Alsthom used to be called Compagnie Générale d’Electricité (CGE), a company whose history dates back to 1898. By 1986, when much of the story relevant to this book begins, CGE was a nationalized company, wholly owned by the French Government. CGE was a very large conglomerate with many subsidiaries, two of particular importance for the story told in this book:

Alsthom, manufacturer of the famous TGV high speed trains and power turbines; and

Alcatel CIT, a telecommunications company whose activities were mainly restricted to France.

Alcatel NV” is borne (1986)

In 1986 Mr. Suard was co-head of Alcatel CIT, in charge of its transmission products division as well as some of its other businesses. During that year CGE entered into negotiations to acquire the worldwide telecommunications subsidiaries of the American company ITT. Before those negotiations were completed, Mr. Suard was appointed to the position of CEO of CGE.

The agreement with ITT, signed in December 1986, provided for the merger into a new Dutch company, called Alcatel NV, of ITT’s worldwide telecom businesses with those of Alcatel CIT and Les Câbles de Lyons, another large CGE subsidiary which was a world leader in cables. In the transaction ITT became a minority shareholder of Alcatel NV. Later ITT sold part of its Alcatel NV shares for cash and exchanged the balance for shares of Alcatel Alsthom.

Alcatel NV is referred to in this book simply as “Alcatel.”

CGE is Privatized (1987)

A few months after completion of the ITT transaction, CGE was privatized, with its shares being listed on the Paris Stock Exchange. Later the shares would be listed elsewhere, including on the New York Stock Exchange.

CGE is renamed “Alcatel Alsthom” (1990)

In 1989, CGE merged its Alsthom subsidiary with a division of GEC, a large English company, to form GEC ALSTHOM. Then in 1990 CGE changed its name to ALCATEL ALSTHOM, taking on the names of two of its large subsidiaries.

Alcatel Alsthom is renamed “Alcatel”

Subsequently, when GEC and Alcatel Alsthom withdrew as shareholders of GEC Alsthom and a renamed GEC Alsthom was listed on the stock exchange, this provoked two other changes:

(i) GEC Alsthom dropped the “GEC” part of its name and the “h” from Alsthom, to become ALSTOM, which is its current name; and

(ii) Alcatel Alsthom dropped the “Alsthom” part of its name, thus becoming simply ALCATEL. This gave the parent company the name of what was formerly its telecom subsidiary.(The new Alcatel was a French company, whereas Alcatel NV, as has been noted, was a Dutch company.)

Alcatel-Lucent is borne (2006)

In 2006, Alcatel merged with the American company Lucent Technologies and took on its current name ALCATEL-LUCENT.

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