This material belongs to: Le Monde.
A dozen investigators from the Financial Crime Enforcement Brigade conducted a series of searches throughout the day on Tuesday, October 10, at the Army Headquarters and a service provider supplying large- carriers to lease for the external operations of the defense.
Seizures were made on servers and computers at the Center for Operations Support (Air) and Routing (CSOA), the specialized center of the staff, located in Villacoublay, Yvelines.
The investigation, whose precise scope is not known to date, is conducted under the direction of the National Financial Office (PNF), which was seized before the summer by the Court of Auditors.
According to the latest information obtained by Le Monde, the Minister of Armies, Florence Parly, also brought proceedings before the courts under Article 40 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which enjoins any constituted authority having knowledge of a crime or an offense to inform the public prosecutor without delay.
At issue: the conditions for the execution of the public contract awarded in 2015 by the defense for the subcontracting of military strategic transport – ie flights between France and abroad – entrusted to the French company ICS. A second contract, known as “SALIS“, was awarded as part of a NATO agency to meet the needs.
France does not own any large-bodied aircraft. It hires them, feeding a juicy market of Antonov 124, Iliouchine 76 or Boeing 747. With its own aircraft, notably the A400 M, of which only two are currently available, Paris covers at best only one quarter of its needs, depending on the period.
The affairs of private charterers have flourished in recent years, with the withdrawal of Afghanistan and the deployments in the Sahel, the Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria. Strategic transport costs the Ministry of Defense around 160 million euros a year – 15% of the price of external operations – of which € 50 million to € 60 million for air transport and the remainder for maritime transport.
The opacity of the management of flights between France and the external areas of operation had been criticized by the Court of Auditors from October 2016. The financial court had then referred to “anomalies”.
Suspicions of favoritism
In March, Francois Cornut-Gentille, the reporter for the defense budget in the Finance Committee, had taken over the affair by denouncing the French “Les Républicains, LR” of Haute-Marne. legal, financial and geopolitical fragilities “of the broadband market: suspicions of favoritism, non-compliance with the public procurement code, unjustified excessive tariffs, French dependence on Russian means. His report had not been answered by the leaders of the armed forces.
A competitor of ICS, SAS, which already supplies the Russian Antonovs with the NATO contract and would like to take the place of ICS at the next renewal of the army market scheduled for 2018, also denounced in early September irregularities with the Armed Forces Commissariat. Without incurring any litigation at this stage.
The defense minister says she does not want to risk endangering French military operations by a lack of planes: “Barkhane” in the Sahel and “Chammal” in Iraq-Syria are currently the main consumers of these flights.
However, in the rental market, airplanes are rare – among them only fifteen Antonov 124 are available, for example to transport military equipment in the world, with three Russian and Ukrainian companies.
In order to secure operational requirements, at least two contractual solutions must be maintained, the CSOA also said at the end of September, which called for the renewal of the contested contract with ICS.