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Tapie Directly Implicated As Marseille Trial Opens
By Barry James International Herald Tribune

Tuesday, March 14, 1995
France's soccer scandal of the decade reached court Monday, with the former owner of Olympique Marseille, Bernard Tapie, repeatedly clashing with the judge hearing allegations that Tapie was involved in bribing another team's players to lose.
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Judge Bernard Langlade threatened to throw the 52-year former cabinet minister out of his courtroom in Valenciennes, close to the Belgian border, as Tapie kept disrupting testimony.
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Tapie, who said he had no intention of remaining quiet, in effect accused the prosecuting judge of following political orders to conspire against him.
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One of his co-defendants, Jean-Jacques Eydelie, a former Marseille player charged with handing over money to players on the Valenciennes team before a game in 1993, said he had been offered a reduced ban from soccer if he testified that Tapie instigated the bribes. It was a dramatic moment, the first time in two years of investigation that Eydelie had directly accused Tapie, but he said he had had enough "of hearing other people tell lies."
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Eydelie said an investigating judge told him that "if I went further in my allegations against Mr. Tapie, I would be able to play again much quicker."
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Jean-Pierre Bernès, 38, Olympique's general director at the time, told the court that he had been ordered to bribe Valenciennes players to help Marseille win its fifth successive French league title. That enabled Olympique to play, and defeat, AC Milan in the European Champions Cup, and become the first French team to win Europe's most prestigious soccer trophy. But Marseille was later stripped of the title and relegated to the second division, Tapie was forced to step down as its president, Bernès was kicked out of soccer and the players accused of offering or taking bribes were barred from playing in France for two years.
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Bernès had consistently denied involvement in the alleged plot. But, he told the court, "It is time to tell the truth."
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"There was an attempt at bribery on my part, on Bernard Tapie's orders, with Jean-Jacques Eydelie as the intermediary," he said.
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Tapie, who had set his sights on winning the French presidency this spring before he was disqualified by being declared bankrupt in December, has described the trial as another attempt to silence him politically.
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Facing major charges not only of bribery but of suborning witnesses, for which he could receive up to three years in jail, Tapie at one point shouted at Judge Langlade, "The search for truth demands that you should not say any old thing."
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The judge replied, "I am warning you, Mr. Tapie, I will not allow myself to be abused by anyone." Mr. Tapie shot back, "Nor will I."
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The former Valenciennes defender Christophe Robert, 30, who is charged with receiving a bribe, told the court that he was offered cash by Eydelie. When Tapie interrupted Robert, the judge threatened to throw the maverick politician out of his court room.
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Robert, who is on trial with his wife and another Valenciennes player, Jorge Burruchaga, 31, has since been hired by the Argentine team Ferrocarril Oeste. Burruchaga, 31, now plays for Independiente in his native Argentina.
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Jacques Glassmann, 32, the Valenciennes player who blew the whistle on the alleged bribes, is the principal witness in the trial, and a civil plaintiff, seeking, as he puts it, "to defend my honor."
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He was jeered by many French soccer fans as a traitor rather than a hero, and was unable to find another French team to take him on when he left Valenciennes last year. He is now playing in the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.
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After Glassmann's revelations, police found nearly 250,000 francs in an envelope in the garden of one of Roberts's relatives. Tapie later said it had been a loan to enable the player to start a restaurant.
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It will be the task of the investigating judge, Bernard Beffy, to prove during the 10- day trial that Tapie knew about the bribe and put up the money. That will require him to prove that Bernès paid the money on Tapie's direct orders.
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Tapie, who says the case was used to ruin his image and thwart his political ambitions, said he was not going to stand by and let the prosecution give its side of the story without reacting.
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