Raphaël Michel no longer under investigation for fraud

Friday February 14 2020 by Vitisphere

The fraud revealed by trading standards involves offences committed between 2013 and 2017.The fraud revealed by trading standards involves offences committed between 2013 and 2017. - Photo credit : Raphaël Michel (archives)

The Rhone Valley wine region is still reeling from the news: the indictment of trading company Raphaël Michel for fraud involving an estimated 300,000 hectolitres of AOC wines has just been annulled by a ruling on 16 January 2020 of the pre-trial chamber of the Nîmes Court of Appeal. “What is important today is that Raphaël Michel is no longer under indictment. The company can no longer be reproached for anything”, said Olivier Morice, the lawyer for the Rhone-based trading firm and its former CEO, Guillaume Ryckwaert (who remains under indictment). After requesting a priority preliminary ruling on constitutionality, the Parisian lawyer raised grounds for invalidity in the investigation procedure: “I have always maintained that the examining magistrate hearing the case put the cart before the horse. The way in which the case was handled does not comply with the elementary rules of procedure of the penal code”.

The argument raised by Raphaël Michel's defence attorney is based on a procedural blunder in 2017. To charge a corporate entity, such as a trading company, the examining magistrate must charge a physical person, its legal representative. After banning Guillaume Ryckwaert from managing and representing Raphaël Michel, the magistrate indicted him as the legal representative of the company, instead of Alexandre Desroches, the new CEO.

Resuming the enquiry

This original mistake involving the name of the company’s legal representative has led the indictment of the trading firm to be annulled. But what in appearance is a victory for Raphaël Michel actually marks the end of action suspending the enquiry, and reveals that the procedural strategy by the defence attorney is reaching its limits. “The numerous appeals by the persons under indictment has obviously wasted time. Our primary objective now is that the investigation can resume and that those responsible can be judged”, stressed Matthieu Chirez, defence counsel for the Rhone wine industry (the Côtes du Rhône producers’ organisation, the Rhone wine trading firms’ association and the Rhone wine marketing board).




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