“Widespread use of fraud”, exploited workforce ” shameless “ : the Marseille Criminal Court severely condemned, Thursday, July 8, the Spanish company Terra Fecundis and its three founders. They were found guilty of sending thousands of South Americans to French fields, in violation of European posted labor rules.
The company Terra Fecundis was sentenced to a 500,000 euros fine, Juan José Lopez Pacheco, his brother Francisco, and their partner Celedenio Perea Coll, its three Spanish directors, to four years in prison and a 100,000 euros fine. ; their four representatives in France were sentenced to terms ranging from one to two years in prison and fines of 5,000 to 40,000 euros.
The Marseille Criminal Court, in this way, condemned the company and its three founders to maximum fines. But it was not as far as the prosecution’s requisitions in terms of imprisonment: at the hearing in May, the prosecutor Xavier Leonetti had requested five years in prison, one of which was closed for the three main defendants.
A major player in the sector in France, the temporary employment company Terra Fecundis, renamed Work for All, has also been definitively banned from exercising the temporary work activity and should now be deprived of the French market, unless the judgment is overturned on appeal.
Thousands of agricultural workers
For four years, from 2012 to 2015, more than 26,000 Terra Fecundis employees were sent to French farms, in Gard, Bouches-du-Rhône or Drôme. Almost all of them from South America, mostly Ecuador.
If the activity of Terra Fecundis in France was “Permanent and devoid of foreseeable term”, as estimated by the Marseille Criminal Court on Thursday, social contributions were paid in Spain, as for posted workers. That is to say tens of millions of euros less in the funds of the Union for the recovery of social security contributions and family allowances (Urssaf), civil party in the lawsuit.
As for the employees, escorted on site by Terra Fecundis in its own vehicles, through a subsidiary sentenced to a fine of 200,000 euros, they were deprived of their overtime, forced to work up to seventy hours. per week for some, without paid leave indemnities or medical follow-up.
For the Marseille Criminal Court, it is clear: the brothers Lopez Pacheco and Celedenio Perea Coll are guilty of concealed work, concealment of employees and bargaining, that is to say of lending labor for profit. , all in an organized band. They had “Set up together and knowingly a “business plan” incorporating the widespread use of fraud to ensure their profit, while resorting to a docile workforce unlikely to claim [ses droits] », said the court.
French agricultural companies questioned
And the court to stigmatize at the same time dozens, even hundreds, of French agricultural companies which “Were able to shamelessly enjoy the services of Terra Fecundis by letting others get their hands dirty”.
The working and housing conditions were so deplorable that some operations were called “Guantanamo”, in reference to the American detention center in Cuba, or “El Carcel” (“the prison”, in Spanish), underlined the president of the court at the hearing. “We couldn’t even [y] to house animals ”, had assaulted the prosecutor Xavier Leonetti, quoting Zola: “With Earth ongoing, c’est Germinal on farms, The Human Beast has become a temporary employment company. “
As soon as the verdict was handed down, Jean-Baptiste Mousset, a lawyer for Celedenio Perea Coll, said he would “Obviously” to appeal, regretting a trial where “We tried to surf on the emotion”.
For mee Vincent Schneegans, counsel to the General Food Federation CFDT, also a civil party, there is no doubt that all the defendants will appeal: “They made it a matter of principle, from the start they placed themselves on the ground of confrontation between two countries, between France and Spain”, he explained to Agence France-Presse.
After the penal aspect, the decision on civil interests will be pronounced on November 19, still in Marseille. The Urssaf, denouncing a fraud “Exceptional”, claimed 112 million euros.
After that, Terra Fecundis will not be done with French justice. On March 18, 2022, before the criminal court of Nîmes, she will be prosecuted for the same facts, but for the period between 2016 and 2019. And this time she will be accompanied on the bench by a dozen French farms having taken advantage of this hard labor.