Corruption. Former customs officials sentenced for abuses

Five former senior customs officials were sentenced in Paris on Wednesday to suspended one-year prison terms to two years for a series of « abuses » linked to a controversial informant who imported counterfeit goods.

The heaviest sentences – five years in prison, two of which are closed – were pronounced against Vincent Sauvalère, head of the Customs Operations Department (DOD) from 2008 to 2014, and Pascal Schmidt, ex-head of the DOD at the port of Le Havre , in a case that has « exceptionally damaged » the image of customs, according to the president of the court Bénédicte de Perthuis.

In order to inflate the figures of the seizures, these senior officials set up business from scratch with the help of an « informant », Zoran Petrovic, yet placed on a blacklist who, in return, was able to import goods without control. at the port of Le Havre. He was also sentenced to two years in prison. The illicit system put in place by the defendants led to « misdirecting the entire management system for advisers (informants) », estimated the president in rendering the judgment.

A record seizure of coffee in the Paris region

The case was triggered by a record seizure of 43 tons of coffee in the Paris region in 2015, behind which the investigators ended up identifying a troubled system of exchanges of good practices between the DOD and Mr. Petrovic. Between 2011 and 2015, this former Serbian soldier also received more than 400,000 euros from customs in compensation for his information, a sum which, according to the court, constitutes “embezzlement of public funds”.

For having neglected the alerts on these payments made via “non-compliant” circuits, the former boss of the National Directorate of Customs Intelligence (DNRED), Jean-Paul Garcia, was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence. “His negligence bordered on complacency,” slammed the president.

Mr. Sauvalère’s successor at the head of the DOD between 2014 and 2017, Erwan Guilmin, was sentenced to one year in prison, as was his former assistant Magali Noël. Found guilty, a customs officer from Le Havre was however exempted from punishment because he is, according to the court, the only one of the defendants to « have become aware » of the seriousness of the embezzlement and to have recognized the facts.


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