A one-year suspended prison sentence and a 15,000 euro fine were requested on Monday against two French journalists prosecuted for having wanted to blackmail the King of Morocco in 2015, facts disputed by the defendants, who ensure that the proposed financial arrangement came from Rabat.
"Where's the blackmail, Mr President?", defended Éric Laurent, former reporter for Radio France and Figaro Magazine and author of numerous books, accused of having demanded 2 million euros to give up publishing embarrassing information.
The ex-journalist, now 75, recognizes before the Paris Criminal Court "an ethical error", "a shipwreck" for having "agreed to (s) get involved in this case", but not " any criminal offence".
The Moroccan emissary "seduced me with his financial offer, I plunged and I deplore it", abounds the other defendant Catherine Graciet , 48, author of books on the Maghreb and Libya
Already authors in 2012 of a book on Mohammed VI , "The predatory king", the two journalists had signed a contract with Le Seuil for a second volume on the same subject.
On July 23, 2015, Éric Laurent contacted the private secretariat of the King of Morocco to request an appointment, organized on August 11 in a Parisian palace with an emissary of the monarchy, the lawyer Hicham Naciri.
“I describe the contents of the book to him”, which plans to evoke tensions in the royal family and accusations of financial embezzlement involving public companies in the country, says Éric Laurent, seated on a chair at the bar of the court.
"Me Naciri said to me: all that does not suit us, and very quickly we switch to a transaction. He is the one who proposes", he says. _"_ That's not how it happened," replies Ralph Boussier, one of the lawyers for the Moroccan state, for whom it is indeed Mr Laurent who "referred to an arrangement" .
The book project "never existed, they have no element to write it (...) The revelations that will shake the kingdom of Morocco: where are they? There is nothing", he argues, believing that the two journalists saw in an attempt at blackmail "an opportunity" to "change your life".
After this meeting, Morocco filed a complaint. An investigation is ongoing, the two other meetings are organized, on August 21 and 27.
At the last, in the presence of Catherine Graciet, the two journalists sign an agreement to withdraw the book project against 2 million euros. Before being arrested with each 40,000 euros in cash. They then learn that the three encounters were recorded by the king's emissary.
Faced with the transcript of the first meeting, where he seems to be actively offering a sum, Mr Laurent sweeps away: “this recording is a fake”.
An expert recognized that the copy given to the investigators had undergone "a post-processing, impossible to specify", but the defence appeals deeming it illegal were rejected in 2017.
"There is no evidence that this recording has been modified, fragmented or that there has been an assembly", underlines the prosecutor.
The decision will be made on March 14.