Looks like the French corruption police are taking this Bollore scandal seriously.
Agence-France Presse reported late Wednesday that Bollore Group CEO Vincent Bollore has been formally charged as part of an investigation into a corruption case involving Bollore Group and Havas, the advertising holding company it controls.
The formal charge (or charges) came after Bollore endured a second day of interrogation at a police facility outside of Paris. The press agency reported the specific charges against Bollore were not clear, but that Havas senior executive Jean-Philippe Dorent and Bollore Group CEO Giles Alix were presented to magistrates along with Vincent Bollore.
The news agency quoted a government spokesman as saying “Vincent Bollore, who remains presumed innocent, will finally now be able to access this file and respond to the allegations against him."
Bollore was allowed to leave once the formal charges were made in a Paris court.
On Tuesday, Bollore Group issued a strong denial of any wrongdoing on the part of any of its companies or staff in connection with the police investigation, from which the formal charges stem. The police are looking into allegations that Bollore provided discounted communications services via Havas to two African country presidential contenders (both won) in exchange for contracts to run shipping port concessions.
The contracts date back to 2009 and 2010, which does make you wonder what took the French gendarmes so long to get to this point. Seems like a pretty long statute of limitations period, but maybe they don’t have those in France.
And by some accounts, France has been relatively lax in taking on big corporations suspected of wrongdoing, which is why this effort with regard to Bollore and Havas has surprised many.
At deadline, there was no further comment from the Bollore Group on the development. A Havas rep did not respond to a request for comment, although it does seem the agency holding company is letting the parent company do the commenting for now.
UPDATE: Early Thursday morning, Havas broke its silence on the matter issuing this brief statement:
"Havas Group acknowledges that an employee of one of its subsidiaries in France has been put under formal investigation on Wednesday 25 April. Havas Group stresses that this employee benefits from the fundamental principle of presumed innocence guaranteed by criminal procedure. The Group will of course fully cooperate with the judicial authorities."