French justice minister endorses self-reporting of corruption

Out-Law News | 23 Jun 2020 | 10:08 am | 1 min. read

The French minister of justice, Nicole Belloubet, has issued a note to prosecutors aligning France’s anti-corruption measures with those practised in countries such as the US and UK.

In a circular published at the start of June, Belloubet said prosecutors, including financial crimes agency le Parquet national financier (PNF), should work with business organisations to encourage companies to self-report acts of corruption and seek to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement, known in France as a Convention judiciaire d'intérêt public (CJIP).

Corporate crime expert Matthieu Querry of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: “This note is a crystal-clear message to foreign authorities that France intends to align with the US and UK practices and policies.”

Prosecutors should particularly aim to work with companies to identify the most involved individuals in any corruption scheme with a view to entering into a CJIP, according to the note. Belloubet said the indictment of individuals such as company management, intermediaries or legal counsel who knowingly provided information to establish an illegal arrangement was important, although individuals cannot enter into a CJIP.

Belloubet also said the French authorities will adopt flexible criteria allowing them to indict companies with economic activity in France, whether or not they are established in the country. The move will mean that prosecutors will be able to indict foreign companies that only have a subsidiary in France.

According to the note (24 page / 5.6MB PDF), French prosecutors will intervene in all international corruption matters that may involve French companies or companies that have an activity in France, to reinstate its judicial sovereignty, and if necessary, cooperate with foreign prosecution authorities regarding cross-border investigations.

A recent example of such a case was the bribery investigation into aerospace manufacturer Airbus, which reached a €3.6 billion settlement with the PNF, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and US authorities earlier this year.

Belloubet identified crimes such as money-laundering, the abuse of social benefits, or falsifying accounts, in addition to bribing public officials, as the types of corruption prosecutors should be targeting.

She said prosecutors should be constantly monitoring foreign press reports and other sources of information to identify possible cases of corruption, particularly in vulnerable sectors such as construction, transport, telecoms, pharmaceuticals, energy and defence.