On 5 January 2016, the Paris correctional court approved the first plea bargain in a financial matter involving the Swiss Reyl Bank and its managers.
The French tax authority investigated hundreds of accounts held by French clients of the Reyl Bank Paris office. This investigation was the consequence of the prosecution against the French former budget Minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, holder of an account in the Reyl Bank in Geneva.
On thirteen contentious accounts, which together amounted to a total of 6 million euros in value, six accounts (to the value to 4.8 million euros) were subject to a tax adjustment and the Reyl Bank and its managers, Dominique and François Reyl, were prosecuted for tax fraud laundering.
During the judicial investigation, the Reyl Bank asked the prosecutor to use the comparution sur reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité (“CRPC”), pursuant to Article 495-7 of the French criminal procedure Code.
According to the CRPC, which was formerly restricted to direct proceedings (where the victim or the prosecutor applies to the court by informing the defendant of the date and situation of the hearing), the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in return for a more lenient sentence.
The CRPC is a two-stage proceeding consisting of:
- A meeting with the prosecutor during which the lawyer defends the interests of the defendant and bargains with the prosecutor in order to obtain the more favourable penalties with regard to the particulars.
- Should the defendant agree to the negotiated penalty proposal, the President of the Paris correctional court then decides whether to approve the proposal at a public hearing.
During the judicial investigation of this matter, the Reyl Bank admitted its responsibility for tax evasion laundering on the six said accounts and agreed to pay a penalty of 2.8 million euros. The agreement was subsequently approved by the Paris correctional court on 5 January 2016. In return, its managers were discharged without charge by the investigation Judge.
Significantly, this was the first time that the CRPC procedure was used in a case involving a financial matter.
This CRPC was conducted in a context where the Reyl Bank and its managers were brought to the Paris criminal court for tax evasion laundering in the trial where Jérôme Cahuzac is also prosecuted for having transferred 685,000 euros in 2009 from an account he held in the Reyl Bank (Geneva) to Singapore.
In that matter, the Reyl Bank and its managers, represented by Paul-Albert Iweins, ask for their discharge.