This Thursday at the Ajaccio court, the last day of the hearing was devoted to the defense pleadings. The lawyers for the defendants worked to demonstrate the autonomy of the farms of the members of the Rossi family and all pleaded for release. Judgment has been reserved for June 24.
“In the midst of all these rules, you have a compass, that’s right. And if you follow this compass, I believe that it is relaxation that is essential for Augustin Gardella.”
At the end of the day on Wednesday, the first defense argument provided by Maître Jean-François Vesperini had set the tone for what would be the following.
This Thursday, the lawyers for the four members of the Rossi family followed in the footsteps of their colleague: they all requested the release of Jean-Dominique Rossi, his wife Béatrice and their two sons Jean-Marie and Pierre-Marie.
Against them, the day before, the prosecutor had requested prison sentences ranging from 18 to 12 months.
As a reminder, these defendants have been appearing since Tuesday before the Ajaccio criminal court for “organized gang fraud and aggravated money laundering”.
They are accused of having improperly received, between 2015 and 2018, 1.4 million euros in agricultural subsidies and of having fictitiously divided their farm into five in order to maximize European aid. For the prosecutor, several elements demonstrate the thesis of the uniqueness of the exploitation.
Former agricultural worker of Jean-Marie Rossi and owner of a farm, Augustin Gardella is meanwhile only prosecuted for “organized gang fraud”. Six months in prison were requested against him. He was not present at the hearing due to Covid.
The Rossi, themselves, attended all the debates and the pleadings of their respective lawyers. Each seated in the same place as on the first two days of the trial, they first listened to Maître Anthony Rossion plead in favor of Jean-Marie, the eldest son aged 30.
After recalling the history and the “complexity of aids” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the lawyer from Ajaccio applied himself to demonstrating “the reality of farming” of his client and his “autonomous operation”.
“Jean-Marie Rossi has plots, livestock. He bought a first tractor in 2012, then a second recently, as well as two cattle trucks in 2016he explains at the bar, facing the president of the court. He also bought a garage in 2015 and several tons of food supplements over several years. He spent 7000 euros on fuel. An agricultural shed was found by the investigators. Each year, he declared his plots.”
During the checks carried out before November 2018 (beginning of the procedure which led to the suspension of the aid paid to the Rossi family), Maître Rossion underlines that his client “was still present and nothing was reported”. And the advice to ask yourself:I do not see how, in view of these controls, you can today reproach Mr. Rossi for not exploiting these plots?
Anthony Rossion then talks about the hiring of Augustin Gardella by Jean-Marie Rossi. “She brought him nothinghe blurts out. When you declare an employee, it generates charges”. According to the attorney,here we have all the elements of operational autonomy”. “Today, you have in front of you a sincere young farmer who has been supporting his farm for 5 years without aid”he concludes before asking for release.
In the process, his colleague Dominique Paolini asks for that of his younger brother, Pierre-Marie Rossi, “not for the benefit of the doubt but of the absolute right”specifies the criminal lawyer who is also looking into the accusation “of fictitious exploitation” : “Pierre-Marie Rossi has equipment, a tractor, a hangar, and has bought three agricultural plots. I’m not making this up, it’s on file. But we are told that he is under the leadership of his father and that the exploitation is fictitious. Since we control our animals at La Confina (near Ajaccio, editor’s note), it’s good that it exists”, he says, brandishing invoices paid by his client. “I prove to you that he paid his insurance contributions and even those to the chamber of agriculture where his father worked. It is he who pays, neither his mother nor his grandmother Angèle Rossi, about whom we are told that it is she who receives the most aid.”
As for the offense of “aggravated money laundering”, the lawyer challenges the court “to find an investment linked to Pierre-Marie-Rossi in this file”. “We are told that he filed a building permit, I did not know it was money laundering. Moreover, the land belonged to his family. He therefore did not buy it with the CAP premiums. I ask you to judge Pierre-Marie Rossi according to his file, not a feeling.
For master Frédérique Campana, who defends Béatrice Rossi, his client “is not the puppet of her husband Jean-Dominique Rossi”. “We are told that she is almost 60 years old, that she does not have the capacity to take care of her farm, she explains. But Madame Rossi is a workhorse. She was a nurse, got up at 4 a.m. for years. Ah, she sure doesn’t have the build of an athlete.” The defendants and the room, copiously stocked, sketch a smile. Master Campana continues:
“But Ms. Rossi is strong and does more than administrative management. She also goes to the farm to make hay and feed the animals. It also has its own declared agricultural equipment. The only thing she don’t drive is the cattle trailer.”
“It’s an excellent pick and it’s above all an emblematic case and likely to win.”
Master Frederique Campana
As Master Paolini had previously done, Béatrice Rossi’s lawyer also evokes the context of November 2018, the date of the Codaf control (departmental anti-fraud committee). According to her, it was necessaryreassure Brussels on the conditions for granting European aid”. And to develop:The prefect at the time (Josiane Chevalier, editor’s note) will then endeavor to do so with the then public prosecutor (Eric Bouillard; editor’s note). And the Rossi family ticks all the boxes: an 86-year-old grandmother, a former nurse wife and two sons. Obviously, it’s suspect to become a farmer as an adult when you’ve always been immersed in it. And, icing on the cake, there is Jean-Dominique Rossi who, in addition, is acting director of the Chamber of Agriculture. It’s an excellent pickaxe and it’s above all an emblematic case that is likely to win.”
In the early afternoon, it is precisely the defense of Jean-Dominique Rossi who takes the floor. Presented by the prosecutor as “responsible for this fraud and the de facto manager of this operation”, the former director of the Corse-du-Sud chamber of agriculture faces an 18-month prison sentence.
“He is accused of a de facto direction, exposes his adviser, Julien Gasbaoui. I believe that if this audience had a merit, it is that we understood well that Jean-Dominique Rossi, all smooth talker and calculator that he was, did not occupy all the place in this family. I am not sure that it emerged from the debates his ability to give orders.”
According to the lawyer, his client’s position “is actually frozen since the Codaf of November 13, 2018 because of the weakness of Angèle Rossi”. Deceased at the end of last year, the mother of Jean-Dominique Rossi was also prosecuted in this case. Originally, she was defended by Julien Gasbaoui.
Medical certificates in support, the lawyer registered with the Paris Bar affirms that the search she underwent in November 2018 plunged her into “a state of extreme anguish”. And to add:she no longer wanted to leave the house, she no longer wanted to live”.
For Master Gasbaoui, the investigators have “taken from his state of health the decisive place of Jean-Dominique Rossi who is therefore for them the de facto leader. However, this role of coordinator does not in fact appear anywhere.”
“If the defendants had wished to defraud, they would have taken care to separate their head offices.”
Master Camille Romani
Second advice from Jean-Dominique Rossi, Camille Romani succeeds his colleague to castigate the actors who have “gave a particular consistency to the case and cast opprobrium on the Rossi family, namely the prefectural and judicial powers as well as certain national media having seen in Jean-Dominique Rossi an “agrimafieux” or an “Al Capone of Liamone”. For the Ajaccien lawyer too, the origin of this “fantasy” is to be found in the November 2018 press conference of the “incestuous couple” formed by the prefect and the prosecutor at the time. “They ignored the principle of separation of powers. he points.
While calling the “good legal sense”, Maître Romani wonders about the moral element of the offense allowing to define the intentional character or not of these possible frauds. “According to telephone tapshe notes, the defendants were not aware of the notion of the uniqueness of agricultural holdings before Codaf control put it forward”. According to the lawyer, the fact that the head office of the different farms is at the same address of Letia “does not constitute proof of “organized fraud” but rather an exculpatory element”. “If the defendants had wished to defraud, they would have taken care to separate their head offices.”
Regarding money laundering, the former president of Ajaccio believes that “there can be no question of it since it assumes that there was a previous offense of fraud”. For Camille Romani, relaxation “is necessary in order to avoid a monstrous judicial incongruity”.
Judgment has been reserved for June 24.