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French Government Investigates Speed Camera Corruption
French financial prosecutor opens formal investigation into corruption allegation involving a speed camera company.

Anticor PNF logo
France's National Financial Prosecutor on Wednesday began investigating allegations of corruption surrounding speed camera equipment contracts. Anticor, a government watchdog group, filed a complaint earlier this year after discovering that government officials had awarded sweetheart deals to radar car provider Fareco.

According to Anticor, Fareco was first awarded a 24 million euro (US $28 million) contract in 2012 to provide next-generation "mobile-mobile radars" in unmarked cars. Instead of sitting on the side of the road, these nondescript vehicles would blend in with traffic and mail citations to vehicle owners weeks after an alleged offense. Fareco's contract was soon amended to give the firm another 2,674,659 euros (US $3,125,531). In 2017, Fareco inked a new 54 million euro (US $63 million) contract without the project ever being publicly announced or opened to competitive bidding.

Under French law, showing favoritism to a contractor is an offense punishable by two years in prison and a 30,000 euro (US $35,000) fine. Prosecutors are also looking into Anticor's 2015 complaint alleging the Atos Group received its own sweetheart speed camera deals. Anticor says government contracting officials created specially tailored technical requirements for potential photo radar unit suppliers -- requirements that Atos had no problem fulfilling while also excluding potential competitors.

The Atos Group has strong ties to the French government. The camera company's CEO, Thierry Breton, is the former minister of Finance. Gilles Grapinet, former chief of staff at the finance ministry, is the senior executive vice president of Atos. Anticor pointed out that with a billion euros (US $1.2 billion) in speed camera citations mailed out every year, there should have been a lot of competition for such a juicy equipment supplier opportunity.

Photo enforcement companies around the world have found themselves embroiled in scandal. In the US, a dozen politicians and camera contractors have been convicted of felonies for their roles in soliciting, accepting or distributing bribes. Italian prosecutors have also racked up an impressive conviction record against a number of speed camera firms. Italy's highest court on Wednesday upheld a six year prison sentence for Claudio Ghizzoni, owner of the speed camera firm Igea and Caterina Buffardeci, the police commander responsible for an overly generous contract.

In Edmonton, Canada, police set up a sting operation in 2004 hoping to frame an anti-photo radar columnist for driving drunk. The plot fell apart when the columnist, who was not drunk, took a cab. The officers involved were not held accountable, nor were officers who accepted bribes in return for their support landing the city's lucrative photo radar contract.

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