Two of the ushers tried for racketeering of traders in one of the largest markets in Île-de-France assured Monday that they had received only a handful of euros in tips per trader, on the first day of their trial in Versailles.
These two men appear until Thursday alongside six others – including a former elected official for “witness tampering– in a major extortion case on the market of the popular district of Val Fourré in Mantes-la-Jolie, a city of nearly 45,000 people in the distant suburbs of Paris.
Karim S., now 43 years old, was an underwriter from 2010 to 2018, i.e. he collected the right of place on this market. Between 2010 and 2019, he deposited cash in his accounts: more than 79,000 euros. Shaved head, beard and black down jacket, Karim S. explained to the criminal court that he had earned this money in cash from a business “abroad“.
Another defendant, in charge of market security from 2013, put more than 167,000 euros in cash in his accounts during the same period, notes the president. He was absent at the hearing, ill according to his lawyer.
On the market, Karim S. assured that he sometimes received tips from “one or two eurosby merchant. No more of “five euros“Abounds another defendant who was also an usher, Taoufik E., now 41 years old. Common use on the markets, they assure.
Nothing to do with the amounts brought to light by the investigation. The prosecution denounces a system based on the requirement of mandatory tips allowing “double the feein exchange for a good location. When the market moved in 2018, the price even of a place could go up to 12,000 euros, “even 20,000 euros“.
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“Getting a message across”
The case began in 2013 with an anonymous letter. The investigation, closed for an insufficiently characterized offence, was relaunched in 2014 following an article in Le Canard Enchaîné.
The many testimonials from merchants, making “allusion to a mafia, to the terror that reigns“, were mostly collected on condition of anonymity, for fear of reprisals. Trucks of traders were set on fire during the investigation. “I spent thirty months in detention and I was never confronted with people implicating me“, laments Karim S. at the helm.
“Why would these people seek to harm you?asks a judge. “I do not know. I got along really well with them.“replies the defendant. “Were you scared?“Questions Didier Seban, lawyer for the current DVD town hall, civil party. “Not at all“, assures Karim S. The lawyer quotes a trader who says he paid several thousand euros to obtain a place. “He lies“says Karim S.
A third usher, with a clean criminal record unlike the others, said on Monday that the judge of freedoms and detention had ensured “protect himby placing him in pre-trial detention. “I was told that if I went out, they would think that I had spoken“. Tears well up in his eyes when he talks about his “six months detention“. Jail asfirst contact» with justice, it is «very violent“, recognizes the president. “In this case, many people are concerned about who provided the information“, she underlines.
Among the ten anonymous letters, some evoke a possible approval of the former mayor of Mantes-La-Jolie and current LR president of the departmental council, Pierre Bédier. The money would be used in particular to finance municipal campaigns. Heard during the investigation, Mr. Bédier was not implicated.
“This story of giving money to elected officials is true or not?asks a judge. “It’s wrong“says Karim S. For Me Steeve Ruben, lawyer for Taoufik E., “political considerationsshed light on the file. According to him, “municipal opposition” could “want to send messages» during an election period.