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Trial of Alain Griset: “At no time did I want to cheat, hide or steal anything”

He arrived in the courtroom a good ten minutes before the opening of the proceedings. Proof that Alain Griset, Minister Delegate in charge of SMEs, was in a hurry to explain the facts with which he is accused. An unrecognized member of the Macron government, the 68-year-old person will nevertheless go down in history: he is the incumbent prime minister to appear before a court, dismissed for having sent declarations of assets and interests “incomplete or lies ”to the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATE). An omission relating to 171,000 euros held in a PEA (share savings plan) account opened in his name.

Once in the courtroom, Alain Griset, charcoal gray suit, white shirt, gray hair combed back, quickly realized that he had suddenly become a litigant like the others: ” I will ask you to turn off your cellphone », Barely launches a young policewoman while he takes place on a bench. Here, not a title of minister that holds. ” Monsieur Griset, if you will come to the bar », Asks the president. Which will not go so far as to ask him for his profession.

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An open investigation

A former taxi craftsman from the north of France, having occupied for many years the functions of president of various chambers of trades, Alain Griset found himself appointed minister on July 6, 2020. A month later, he sent his declarations to the HATE as the wants the law. At the beginning of October, the president of the authority sent him several observations by mail. They relate in particular to the existence of a PEA account in his name with 171,000 euros, which he did not mention. However, part of the money in this account (130,000 euros plus 19,000 euros of capital gain) belongs to the National Confederation of Crafts, Trades and Services of the North (CNAMS) of which Alain Griset was the president. until he entered government. Which adds to the confusion.

At the end of October, the Minister Delegate for SME sends back two amended declarations to HASTE. On November 23, she informed the public prosecutor’s office of the minister’s omission, but also of facts likely to be a breach of trust. A preliminary investigation was also opened at the Lille prosecutor’s office for which Alain Griset was heard in open hearing on August 24.

I could have made a mistake. Awkwardness does not mean dishonesty “, Defends Alain Griset at the bar. He tells of his surprise appointment, he, the son of a metallurgist, “bac – 8”, that nothing predestined to one day land a ministerial portfolio.

At no time did I want to cheat, hide or steal anything. When you have the chance to be a minister, you don’t waste that chance by trying to cover up something that was so visible ”.

A remunerative investment

As soon as he was appointed Minister, he resigned from his many mandates, including that of President of the CNAMTS. He also contacts his banker to ask him to transfer the money he holds on his PEA apartment to the room to the account of the organization. ” My mandate was to manage this money as president of the CNAMS, no longer being president, this mandate ended, he says. This money did not belong to me. It never belonged to me before being minister and even less after “.

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According to his account, the sum would come from the sale of real estate. In agreement with the chamber office, it would have been decided in August 2019 to invest it in Alain Griset’s account to make it grow while waiting for a new real estate opportunity. A financial choice that questions. ” Everything has been recorded. It was done transparently », Explains the Minister, even if the management mandate was tacit. ” We tried to do for the best, we are not lawyers ”, he advances. This placement would have turned out to be the most “ convenient »And the most profitable.

“Not an omission”

However, the return of the money turns out to be more complicated than expected. Due in particular to the confusion between the funds of the chamber and its own funds. In addition, the banker notices that the money in the account exceeds the authorized limit, which requires restructuring the PEA before making the transfer.

But time is running out for the former taxi craftsman. During July 2020, he decides to make a transfer of 130,000 euros from another of his accounts to that of the CNAMS, pending the calculation of the capital gain on the funds paid. A few days later, on his statement, no mention of the chamber’s money held on the PEA. ” It’s not an omission, I had no reason to put it He replies.

The funds belonging to him on the PEA are not shown either. ” I was waiting for my banker’s return to indicate the exact amount in the declaration “, Justified the Minister. This amount would not have been given to him until October. As proof of his good faith, he explains having, at his request, met HATE officials on November 13, 2020 to explain the situation to them. ” In any case, I did not take a penny from anyone. I never used this money to go to restaurants, travel or anything », He hammers.

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Bad faith

In a severe indictment, the prosecutor assimilates these breaches of transparency obligations as breaches of office. ” Not only is the accused in bad faith but he is in particular bad faith », Reproaches the magistrate. The latter is surprised that the minister has not contacted the HATE ” upstream of his declaration to explain the situation or get advice “.

On this point, the prosecutor has his explanation: ” Alain Griset placed the funds in his accounts hoping to keep the capital gain for himself. Which explains his eagerness to put an end to this situation He says. At the end of his requisitions, he therefore requested a suspended sentence of ten to twelve months in prison, a fine of 30,000 euros and a three-year ineligibility sentence, which entails “Automatically the prohibition to exercise public functions”. In other words, this conviction would put an end to the functions of minister of Alain Griset.

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I see neither concealment nor cheating in the behavior of Alain Griset “Replied Me Patrick Maisonneuve, the minister’s lawyer, in his plea, acknowledging a simple” clumsiness “. Lashing out for requisitions in ” the most total excess ”In relation to the reality of the case. ” The prosecutor requested the death penalty against a minister, the death penalty of the office, in a file which does not justify it. We are neither in influence peddling nor in corruption ”, To regretted the lawyer at the end of the hearing.

The decision will be rendered on December 8.

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