An investigation was opened by the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) into suspicions of embezzlement of public funds in favor of the company Ryanair which operates at La Rochelle airport, according to a judicial source, who thus confirmed, Friday December 8, information from France Blue.
A first, preliminary investigation was opened in May for “favoritism, embezzlement of public funds and concealment of these crimes” after the publication in the spring of a report from the regional crime chamber of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. “which may call into question Ryanair, the joint union managing the airport, the chamber of commerce and industry” and the Charentes Tourisme tourism committee, said the judicial source.
As part of this investigation, “a search was carried out in these places and at the town hall of Châtelaillon-Plage by the gendarmes of the Bordeaux research section, deployed in large numbers”we added. “Paper and digital documents were seized. »
La Rochelle-Île de Ré airport, created in 1939 and owned by the Charente-Maritime Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), “experiences limited commercial traffic” with an activity “mainly seasonal” And “around ten lines operated by low-cost airlines”notes the regional chamber in its report on the 2017 financial year and the following ones.
Lack of control
“The cumulative operating deficit” from the airport is “more than 3.73 million euros” for 2017 and 2018. It is explained by the low attendance (240,000 passengers in 2018) and “significant sums paid to airlines to maintain or develop commercial traffic”i.e. 3.5 million euros between 2017 and 2018, “including 2 million euros to Ryanair”. This aid is also added to the financing of the public service obligation “to ensure the opening up of the territory”.
The CCI “has thus resorted since 2017 to reductions in fees for the creation of other lines, as well as to so-called “informed investor” contracts”authorizing an airport to subsidize a company if profitability is assured.
However, the room “identified irregularities affecting several of these contracts, awarded without publicity or competitive bidding in disregard of the rules relating to public procurement and some of which were signed several weeks after their entry into force”.
The CCI also paid Charentes Tourisme 500,000 euros per year, “then transferred to the Ryanair company for the provision of marketing services”. Relevant “the absence of control over these partly non-existent services”the chamber considers that “the real purpose of this arrangement is to conceal the allocation by the airport of additional financing” to Ryanair without respecting European legislation on state aid.