Rhone Valley: How the new visitors’ centre got sucked into a construction quagmire

Monday April 17 2017 by Vitisphere

It all began in 2014, during Christian Paly’s tenure as chairman of the Rhone Valley marketing board. Architect Jean-Marie Renaud, who was involved in the Carré du Palais project from the start, began embezzling the board immediately after work began, overcharging, sending out two invoices for the same job, invoicing for work never done and using undeclared workers. But at this stage of construction, nobody picked up on it. When Michel Chapoutier became chairman in November of the same year, the project took a new turn. Chapoutier was made aware of the fact that building work was slow. Requests for an explanation were sent by recorded delivery but the architect failed to respond. The chairman of the marketing board ultimately decided to launch an audit in January 2016. “It was then that I began to really start suspecting something was wrong...” explains Chapoutier.

There were in fact multiple issues with the building. No access had been planned for disabled visitors, there were no extractor fans for the kitchens for the rooftop restaurant and no planning applications had been made to the French heritage board, for instance. On top of these shortcomings, there were also suspicions of embezzlement. By the end of the July 2016, InterRhone finally broke the contract with the architect and lodged a complaint with the judicial police. After an eight-month police enquiry, the architect and his wife were charged on March 21, 2017. The list of charges is long: fraud, attempted fraud, qualification fraud and using undeclared workers. Police currently estimate damages at 770,000 euros.


Source: Vitisphere. Photo: InterRhone


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