Financial public prosecutor
As mentioned in last month's update, the French Senate debated a draft organic law creating a financial public prosecutor (procureur de la République financier) with national jurisdiction, as well as measures relating to the fight against tax fraud and serious economic crimes. In the vote that followed, the Senate rejected the creation of a national financial public prosecutor outright, and also made a number of major amendments to the other measures, including:
- rejecting provisions which would have allowed anti-corruption groups to act as civil claimants in respect of certain corruption-related offences;
- a reduction in the ability of the tax and customs authorities to rely on evidence of unlawful origin; and
- a narrowing of the circumstances in which whistle-blowers would be granted particular protection.
As a result of the Senate vote, the issue was referred to a joint committee charged with producing bills reconciling the differences between the two chambers in respect of both the creation of the national prosecutor and the measures concerning tax fraud and economic crimes.
On 23 July 2013, the commission announced that it had been unable to reach an agreement, and the measures have now been sent back to a standing commission of the National Assembly.
Constitutional Reform of the Supreme Magistrate's Council
Although the Constitutional Reform of the Supreme Magistrate's Council (Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature) has been temporarily suspended by the French Minister of Justice, Law no. 2013-669 on the powers of the Minister of Justice and Public Prosecutors in criminal policy and prosecution was adopted on 25 July 2013.
This new law amends the Code of Criminal Procedure by introducing a prohibition on the Minister of Justice giving instructions to public prosecutors in individual cases.
The purpose of this provision is to prevent any interference by the executive in the conduct of criminal proceedings, so as to avoid any hint of suspicion that might undermine public confidence in the judiciary.
Oil for food
In what was described as a "spectacular blow" for the investigation, at the beginning of the month the Paris criminal court discharged the defendants in a case relating to the UN's oil for food programme in Iraq. The defendants had been charged with offences ranging from corruption of foreign officials to influence-peddling.
However, on 18 July 2013 the Paris Parquet (Public Prosecutor's Office) announced that it had appealed against the acquittal of a number of the defendants, meaning that the case will now be considered by the Court of Appeal.