Gilles Moretton “wants to impose his ideas by force, by threat, by blackmail”, denounces a Lega president
A few days after the opening of Roland-Garros, the French tennis federation is the subject of a complaint and a complaint filed with the national finance prosecutor’s office for suspected illicit resale of tickets for international tennis players in Paris. At the center of the accusations: Gilles Moretton, the president of the federation.
Elected on February 13, 2021 with 61.2% of the vote during a campaign at loggerheads, Gilles Moretton is the president of a tense and divided French tennis federation. On March 16, seven current or former leaders of the FFT arrived, including Alain Moreau (president of the Ligue Nouvelle-Aquitaine), Pascal Da Costa (member of the Superior Council of Tennis) or Stéphane Thomann (president of the tennis committee of the Alto Reno) out of the shadows to file charges against X for alleged embezzlement of public property and corruption within the organization.
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A few days later, the anti-corruption agency Anticor in turn filed a complaint with the National Finance Prosecutor. This complaint and this report consulted by franceinfo are mainly directed at Gilles Moretton. The suspicions that lead these tennis personalities to file a complaint primarily concern the conditions of the latter’s election to lead the FFT. According to the complainants, the former Lyon tennis player’s campaign may have been tainted by a bribery pact to attract the votes of the Paris tennis committee and at the same time neutralize a disciplinary investigation into the illegal resale of Roland-Garros tickets in regional league sponsors.
The appointment of a cabinet chief arouses suspicions
If none of the complainants wished to testify with franceinfo, several executives and leaders of the FFT agreed to speak with us on condition of anonymity on suspicions of corruption. “Doubt arose immediately after his election, explains one of them who wants to remain anonymous. Gilles Moretton immediately created Hughes Cavallin (volunteer treasurer of the outgoing president) his chief of staff by paying him 5,700 euros net per month. The location didn’t exist before! This gesture has shocked many executives, but above all we have all asked ourselves the question of the counterpart of this about-face.
This picture suggests several explanations. The first is due to the fact that Hughes Cavallin was a key man in the Île-de-France tennis championship and in particular in the Paris committee, a great source of votes during the election of the presidents of the FFT. But above all, as confirmed by internal documents consulted by franceinfo, the two men were about to be summoned by the FFT’s dispute commission. This disciplinary body was investigating the conditions for the resale of Roland-Garros tickets by the tennis leagues, including the ARA (Auvergne – Rhône – Alpes) league led from 2018 to 2021 by Gilles Moretton. The Disputes Committee was also interested in the action of the Paris committee which sold 40 seats to a company (AS Events) co-headed by Hughes Cavallin’s wife.
According to the presidency, “this story does not hold up”
“From a legal point of view, continue this framework encountered by franceinfo, the executive committee he had no right to stop a disciplinary proceeding. It’s the sporting code. It is surprising that the tennis disciplinary commissions or the very recent national ethics committee do not react. The corrupting pact is something that must be investigated as soon as possible so that it doesn’t happen again. For employees, for licensees, for elected officials and for federal justice. It’s federal money, it’s union money”.
Contacted by franceinfo, Gilles Moretton’s entourage disputes any allegations of corruption to promote his election in February 2021. Supporting documents and email exchanges, the president’s camp tells us that the federation’s legal department itself referred to the contracts standards used by Gilles Moretton and the ARA league to market “packages” including Roland-Garros tickets with his partner (the Adequat company). “This story doesn’t stand, Alain Jakubowicz, Gilles Moretton’s lawyer, gets carried away. In this case we are talking about 80 tickets out of 600,000 tickets. You must know what you are talking about. These tickets were placed in a “package” at cost price and no one won any money. There is absolutely nothing wrong. There is nothing illegal. And even if there is a discussion about the interpretation of the regulations, it is not the responsibility of the criminal justice system, but in the worst case, of the federal authorities.
“This affair, pardon me for the old Frenchman’s expression, is a matter of horn ass totally sewn up with white thread in the sole desire to harm, not only Gilles Moretton, but the French Tennis Federation on the eve of this great event which is the Roland-Garros tournament”.Alain Jakubowicz, attorney for Gilles Moretton
Contacted by France Info, says Hughes Cavallin, chief of staff of Gilles Moretton, also implicated “very serene”. He assumes that he has left the field of Bernard Giudicelli (the outgoing president) for that of Gilles Moretton “without any compensation”. According to Hughes Cavallin, the resale of tickets within the leagues is a “non-commercial” exploited by the losers of the election for the presidency of the federation. As regards the termination of the disciplinary proceedings, Hughes Cavallin argues, “it was an automatic procedure, because it was started under the previous mandate”.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini, takes a radically opposite view of the case. “We can always rewrite history from Gilles Moretton’s side. The reality is that there was a rule enacted in 2017 by the FFT and forbade leagues to sell Roland-Garros tickets in its place, defends. My clients say Gilles Moretton didn’t have the right to sell the tickets so the buyers could resell them at a profit. At the time the offenses were committed, this rule was violated.”
Amélie Oudéa-Castéra recruited by Gilles Moretton
It is now up to the National Finance Prosecutor to assess whether or not the many mutually adduced arguments deserve an investigation. In that case, the current sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, could be called into question by the courts. The then general manager, hired by Gilles Moretton and paid nearly €35,000 a month, voted in February 2021 to stop disciplinary proceedings in this ticket resale case. Following an expulsion order signed by Elisabeth Borne, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra has no right to speak on the matter to avoid any conflict of interest.
In 2016, the National Finance Prosecutor had already opened a similar investigation into suspicions of embezzlement. The then president of the FFT, Jean Gachassin, and two other members of the federation were suspected of illegally reselling Roland-Garros tickets. Six years later, this preliminary investigation is still ongoing, confirms the PNF to franceinfo.
A malaise that dates back to 2011
Since the filing of the complaint on March 16, the atmosphere has been volcanic at the French Tennis Federation. The last council of the presidents of the League, ten days ago, was experienced very badly. Gilles Moretton and his secretary general are furious at being targeted by this complaint. Insults, threats and blackmail: this is the tone of the two men in front of the representatives of the regions. One of them tells us, on condition of anonymity: “President Moretton told us: ‘You have no balls, you have no courage, you are losing strength’. It was very violent. We didn’t expect to find ourselves in the middle of it all because in the end we did not talk about tennis, we talked about the affairs of the president and the general secretary”.
“On the ticket sales complaint, they told us [que] if tomorrow he were to reveal everything, all the presidents of the League would also be worried, who would pay the consequences”.A president of the regional tennis league
“Beneath his airs of good comradeship with everyone, he continues, behind it, there is someone who wants to impose his ideas by force, threat and blackmail. And that doesn’t work.”
This malaise dates back to the beginning of 2021, when Gilles Moretton was elected. A third of employees quit their jobs, which is almost 130 people out of 400. Some we met came out of a burnout, denouncing brutal and toxic methods. To defend himself, Gilles Moretton wrote to the 32 members of the Superior Tennis Council. He assures: “Our organization respects the law and labor law, with respect for people, in line with the values of sport dear to us. I assume I am a demanding president. Kindness does not exclude either need or rigor”.
But Gilles Moretton is clearly on the defensive. He has surrounded himself with a crisis communication consultant and his attorney threatens to sue anyone who tarnishes her name or his reputation for defamation.