(Paris) With 400 days to go before the events, the Paris-2024 Games must face a major first: the organizing committee (Cojo) and other sites were searched on Tuesday in investigations by the Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) , which risk tarnishing the image of JO who want to be “exemplary”.
According to the prosecution, one of these preliminary investigations relates to alleged acts of illegal taking of interests, embezzlement of public funds, favoritism and concealment of favouritism; illegal taking of interests, favoritism and concealment of favoritism for the second. All within the framework of contracts linked to the preparation of the Olympic Games.
Contacted, the Ministry of Sports and the Olympics did not wish to react at this stage.
The public prosecutor confirmed to AFP the information from France TV according to which he had ordered searches at the Cojo and at other sites.
The large modern and brown facade of the Cojo, in Saint-Denis, is not the only one to have seen the investigators parade Tuesday morning: the search also concerns the Olympic Works Delivery Company (Solideo), in the center-west of Paris as well as other sites, according to the PNF.
The first investigation, opened in 2017 and entrusted to the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption and Financial and Tax Offenses (OCLCIFF), concerns a series of contracts awarded in particular by “the Cojo and the 2024 GIP the bid committee which preceded the Cojo, Editor’s note), “said the PNF.
Opened in 2022 and entrusted to the BRDE, the financial brigade of the Parisian judicial police, the second procedure relates, according to the PNF, to several contracts awarded by the Cojo and the Solideo. Its launch came after a check by the French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA). According to a source familiar with the matter, this concerns “advisory contracts” on “different subjects”.
According to another source familiar with the matter, one of these two procedures is interested in potential conflicts of interest linked to Edouard Donnelly, executive director of operations of the Cojo who had previously been an Olympic service provider via his company RNK.
Asked by AFP, the Cojo and Solideo separately confirmed the searches and indicated that they “fully cooperate with the investigators”. The IOC told AFP that it had been “informed” of these searches by the Cojo, and assured of their “collaboration” with the authorities, without giving further details.
The Cojo is set up as an association under the 1901 law. The Court of Auditors closely monitors its activity and will soon publish a report.
In April 2021, two AFA reports on the organization of the Olympic Games, of which AFP became aware, pointed to “risks of breaches of probity” and “conflicts of interest”, scratching the image of the “Exemplary” Olympics wanted by the boss of the organizing committee, Tony Estanguet.
The AFA inspectors considered that the general procurement procedure was “imprecise and incomplete”, and pointed out that there were “sometimes situations of potential uncontrolled conflicts of interest”.
In their reports, the AFA inspectors recalled the criminal proceedings against the presidents of the Brazilian and Japanese Olympic committees linked to the last two Summer Games (Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021), and also observed that “the risks of breaches of probity are common in the context of major sporting events”.
“It’s not necessarily a surprise. There had already been two alerts, one from the AFA and the other from a former member of the Cojo, who had also been dismissed afterwards, ”recalls David Roizen, expert in public sports policy.
“Vis-à-vis everyone, these searches are catastrophic. They have just lost their credibility, especially on the duty to set an example […]. It will stick with them until the Olympics, ”he analyzes.
Since the end of the Tokyo Olympics, several arrests and convictions have been made. In May, two former officials of a corporate sponsor of the Tokyo Olympics received suspended prison sentences in connection with a corruption scandal surrounding the event.
These searches are not the only legal stone in the shoes of the organizers of the Olympic Games. On Tuesday, ten workers who worked at the time without papers on the sites of the 2024 Olympics, assigned several construction giants, Vinci, Eiffage, Spie Batignolles and GCC, to the industrial tribunals of Bobigny (Seine–Saint-Denis) , to obtain “recognition” of their work and payment of back wages.
A year ago, the Bobigny prosecutor’s office had opened a preliminary investigation for “concealed work” and “employment of an untitled foreigner in an organized gang” after checks which had made it possible to identify several irregular workers on an Olympic site.