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Pollution on the French Riviera: Firm prison and remediation obligations for

Publié le 20/12/2021 - Catégorie: Environment ...

Faced with the "waste mafia", accused of having dumped thousands of tons of rubble on the Côte d'Azur, the courts have sometimes opted for closed prison but above all forced the defendants to rehabilitate the polluted land. The criminal court of Draguignan (Var) "has sometimes chosen to focus on repairing damage", explained the president of the court on reading the deliberation Tuesday.

Fines have been imposed. The heaviest was inflicted on the company Esterel environnement, reaching 300,000 euros. But the seventeen defendants were first ordered to deposit sometimes large sums (up to 1 million euros for this company), within a year, to ensure the remediation of the polluted sites. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of construction rubble, polluted with bitumen, plastic, even lead, arsenic or mercury, had been dumped between Fréjus, Le Luc and Trans-en-Provence, in the Var, and as far as Sospel in the Alpes-Maritimes.

The question of the solvency of convicts

In total, deposits were issued to the tune of 3.28 million euros for the rehabilitation of the twenty-two polluted sites estimated overall between five and six million euros. But the question of the solvency of the convicts, most of whom were banned for 5 years, was already being asked on Tuesday: "I'm at the RSA, how am I going to pay?" One reacted as they left the hearing.

"This is a positive decision," commented Mathilde Gouëffon, lawyer at France Nature Environnement (FNE). "But there was more solvency on the side of the principals, absent from the trial, than the carriers," she regretted.

Regarding natural persons, one of the brains of the network, a 34-year-old man with an already extensive judicial CV, was sentenced to four years in prison, including two years suspended. Four other defendants called "environmental criminals" by the prosecution were also sentenced to prison terms, between 24 and 30 months and suspended from 9 to 18 months.

Threatened to find himself "buried in his land"

The court also awarded damages of 2,000 to 20,000 euros to several civil party associations, including FNE, as well as to a few injured owners. One of the cheated owners, threatened to find himself "buried in his land" totally "massacred", obtained 20,000 euros for "moral and enjoyment" damage.

From 2017 to 2020, the seventeen defendants, including seven companies, had thus ransacked hectares. Their technique, discussed at length at the hearing at the end of November, was simple: to offer "free" deliveries of topsoil to individuals, via classifieds on Le Bon Coin or Facebook; but instead of two or three trucks, some sites saw hundreds of heavy goods vehicles loaded with rubble.

This "emblematic decision is in line with the requisitions of the prosecution", welcomed Me Ségolène Tuloup, who defended the Building and Public Works Federation of the Var, civil party. "We have a balance between what the defendants will have to bear, but with the help of the State, which immediately, in accordance with what provides for the Environment Code, will be responsible for restoring the sites to their original condition, at the expense of convicts, which changes things a lot for the victims, ”she added.

"On the financial level, the sentences are extremely heavy," said Audrey Vazzana, lawyer for one of the defendants, regretting a trial where "we were content to pursue small hands".