Alleged EDF staff committee scamwidens to French Communist party, CGT union

29th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - French anti-fraud police conducted a second day of raids Wednesday in an investigation into alleged corruption at the workers' committee of the state-owned energy company EDF-GDF, suspected of illegal payments to the benefit of the Communist party and the hardline CGT union.

PARIS, April 28 (AFP) - French anti-fraud police conducted a second day of raids Wednesday in an investigation into alleged corruption at the workers' committee of the state-owned energy company EDF-GDF, suspected of illegal payments to the benefit of the Communist party and the hardline CGT union.

Officers from the financial section of the national police searched the premises of a car-fleet management company and of a special events organiser in the Paris suburbs, both alleged to have colluded in false-billing to the EDF-GDF workers' committee in order to mask the hand-outs.

On Tuesday police searched nine sites belonging to the workers' committee including its headquarters in the Paris suburb of Montreuil, seizing files of accounts and the hard discs of several computers.

Launched in February as a result of complaints from whistle-blowers, the investigation led by judge Jean-Marie Huy is looking into allegations that the committee - which is run by the CGT union - has systematically misspent part of its massive annual income of EUR 400 million (USD 475 million).

All large French companies are obliged by law to have a workers' committee - or comite d'entreprise - which are paid for by a mixture of staff and company contributions and help subsidise a range of benefits such as holidays, cultural events and canteens.

The committee at EDF-GDF is unusual because it is funded by a one percent levy on all energy bills, making it the richest in the country - employing 5,500 people, owning more than 450 holiday centres, and running France's largest live show production agency.

Dominated by the CGT union since the electricity and gas industries were nationalised under a Communist minister after World War II, the EDF-GDF workers' committee is accused of being a milch-cow for the union, as well as for the cash-strapped Communist party to which the CGT was formerly affiliated.

"I noted accounting failures - major contracts approved without going to tender, services acquired at way above the market price, jobs created for no clear pupose. Now justice is making enquiries. It will tell us what lies behind these shortcomings," said Jean-Claude Laroche, who ran the committee for a year to April last year.

Among the allegations are that in 2001 the committee paid EUR 145,000 for giant video screens at the Fete de l'Humanite - the annual Communist party gala - and that EUR 26,800 went on sound production for the 2002 presidential campaign of then Communist leader Robert Hue.

More than 10 functionaries were given fake jobs at the committee but in fact worked full time for the CGT or the Communist party, according to investigators. A year ago it is alleged the committee bought up 77,000 copies of the Communist weekly paper L'Humanite Hebdo.

The Idelia car-fleet company and the Compact events organiser are said to have over-billed the committee for services rendered, so that it could hide the money being funnelled to its beneficiaries.


© AFP

                                            Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article