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CRIME

French wine baron convicted over rankings scandal

A renowned Bordeaux vineyard owner was found guilty on Monday of giving prestigious official rankings to wines in which he had financial interests or acted as an adviser, a scandal that infuriated rivals who missed out on the lucrative distinctions.

French oenologist Hubert de Bouard was charged with conflict of interest over rankings awarded to Saint-Emilion wines.
French oenologist Hubert de Bouard was charged with conflict of interest over rankings awarded to Bordeaux wines. Photo: MEHDI FEDOUACH / AFP.

Hubert de Bouard, co-owner of the Chateau Angelus of Saint-Emilion fame – whose bottles sell for hundreds if not thousands of euros – was fined €40,000 by a court in Bordeaux, southwest France.

De Bouard, 65, was charged with conflict of interest over his role in determining the Grand Cru rankings for Saint-Emilion wines from 2010 to 2012, which saw Angelus promoted to the top “A” ranking.

At the time he sat on the national wines committee for France’s National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO), the guardian of the country’s strict food and wine appellations.

He was also member of the Saint-Emilion wine industry association that helped define the INAO criteria for the rankings.

Eight other vineyards where De Bouard was an adviser or director also got the coveted awards.

A fellow member of the INAO panel, Philippe Casteja, a wine merchant and owner of the Chateau Trotte Vieille – whose “B” ranking was upheld in 2012 – was acquitted.

Three rival vineyards excluded from the rankings joined the case as plaintiffs, saying the system had been rigged against them, though both De Bouard and Casteja denied any wrongdoing.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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