FFE Cheating: Judge rules incriminating SMS inadmissible

by Albert Silver
3/11/2011 – After unearthing a series of SMS messages between players accused of cheating at the Olympiad using a phone lent by the French Chess Federation vice president, the FFE sought to have those messages transcribed and included as evidence in the upcoming Disciplinary Committee. A judge ruled that secrecy could only be waived if the FFE sued in court, as the FFE explains in a public statement.

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AFFAIRE DE « TRICHE ORGANISEE »

Décision du Juge des Référés

La FFE a engagé, le 22 décembre 2010, une action disciplinaire à l'encontre de MM Sébastien FELLER, Arnaud HAUCHARD et Cyril MARZOLO, pour des faits de « triche organisée » pendant les Olympiades d'Echecs, qui se sont déroulées du 21 septembre au 3 octobre dernier à Khanty‐Mansyik (Russie).

Cette plainte a été déclarée recevable par la Commission d'Appel et d'Ethique fédérale (CADE), qui a désigné un instructeur ; le dossier est désormais entre les mains de la Commission de Discipline de la FFE. Parallèlement, lors de l'audience du 24 février 2011, le Juge des Référés de Nanterre a examiné la demande de la FFE visant à obtenir « la désignation d'un huissier » pour « transcrire les messages entrants et sortants » depuis la ligne téléphonique de M. Cyril Marzolo vers les lignes téléphoniques de MM Sébastien Feller et Arnaud Hauchard, pendant la période des Olympiades de Khanty‐ Mansyik.

Cette demande de la FFE était motivée par le fait que « Mme Joanna Pomian, vice‐présidente de la fédération, [s'était] rendue compte que cette ligne téléphonique, dont elle avait laissé l'usage à M Marzolo, était utilisée par ce dernier pour communiquer par mini‐messages avec M Hauchard qui (…) apportait ainsi une assistance illicite à M Feller, lequel participait à la compétition ».

Il s'agissait pour la fédération, dans le plus strict respect de la législation et de la jurisprudence régissant le secret des correspondances, d'obtenir des pièces complémentaires à verser au dossier qui sera présenté à la Commission de Discipline de la FFE.

Le Juge des Référés a considéré:

- d'une part, que « bien qu'il ne soit pas lui‐même le souscripteur de la ligne téléphonique [en question], M Marzolo bénéficie du droit au secret des correspondances échangées par l'intermédiaire de cette ligne, dès lors que son usage permanent lui a été conféré par le titulaire de cette ligne, Mme Pomian »,

- d'autre part qu'« aucune disposition légale ne [lui] conférait le pouvoir de lever ce secret », dans la mesure où il ne peut y être porté atteinte « qu'en matière pénale ou de sécurité ».

- enfin, le magistrat a jugé qu'« il serait inéquitable que MM Marzolo, Hauchard et Feller (…) supportent l'intégralité de leurs frais de procédure », et a condamné la FFE à leur en rembourser une partie.

Ainsi qu'elle l'avait annoncé par un communiqué le 27 janvier dernier, la FFE se réserve donc le droit de saisir le juge pénal, qui pourra lever le secret des correspondances.

Quoiqu'il en soit et compte tenu de la décision du Juge des Référés, la FFE, qui prend acte du refus catégorique des défendeurs de voir ces pièces remises à un huissier de justice, renonce à solliciter leur communication, qui n'auraient, en toute hypothèse, qu'ajouté aux différents éléments à charge du dossier disciplinaire.

En tout état de cause, l'ordonnance du Juge des Référés s'est uniquement prononcée sur la possibilité d'obtenir communication du contenu des sms échangés, sans s'intéresser au fond du litige.

C'est en effet à la seule Commission de Discipline qu'il appartiendra de se prononcer sur la réalité des faits de triche allégués, lors de son audience du samedi 19 mars 2011 à 10h30, à Paris.

La FFE tient également à souligner qu'elle avait l'obligation absolue de diligenter cette procédure, afin :

- d'une part, de dégager toute éventuelle responsabilité de Mme Pomian en tant que titulaire de la ligne téléphonique incriminée,

- d'autre part, de respecter, conformément aux engagements pris devant les autorités de tutelle, les valeurs du sport et de l'éthique, qui sont au fondement même de son existence.

Le Bureau Fédéral de la FFE

Source: French Chess Federation


Translation

« ORGANIZED CHEATING » CASE
Decision of Judge in Chambers

On December 22, 2010, the FFE initiated disciplinary action against Mr. Sébastien FELLER, Arnaud HAUCHARD, and Cyril MARZOLO, for acts of “organized cheating” during the Chess Olympiads, which took place from September 21st to October 3rd, 2010, at Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia).

The complaint was declared admissible by the Federal Commission of Appeal and Ethics (CADE), which has appointed an instructor. The case is now in the hands of the Disciplinary Committee of the FFE.

In the meantime, during the hearing on February 24, 2011, the Judge in Chambers in Nanterre considered the request of the FFE to obtain "the appointment of a bailiff" to "transcribe incoming and outgoing messages" from the telephone line Mr Cyril Marzolo to the telephone lines of Mr. Sébastien Feller and Arnaud Hauchard, during the Olympics of Khanty-Mansiysk.

This request by the FFE came about after “Mrs. Joanna Pomian, vice-president of the federation, noticed that the phone which she had lent to Mr. Marzolo, had been used by him to send mini-messages to Mr. Hauchard who (…) thus procured illicit assistance to Mr. Feller, who partook in the competition.”

The federation’s aim, in strict compliance with the legislation and case law governing the confidentiality of correspondence, was to obtain further documentation for the files to be submitted to the Disciplinary Committee of the FFE.

The judge hearing determined:

- Firstly, that "although he is not the personal subscriber of the telephone line [in question], M Marzolo has the right to secrecy of correspondence exchanged through this line, since its permanent was granted by the line’s owner, Mrs. Pomian. "

- Furthermore that "no legal provision gave him the power to waive the confidentiality”, since it could be done “only in a criminal case or one of security."

- Finally, the magistrate ruled that "it would be unfair for Mr Marzolo, Hauchard and Feller (...) to bear the full cost of the procedure", and ordered the FFE reimburse them part of the fees.

As it had announced in a press release on January 27, the FFE therefore reserves the right to take the case to a criminal court, where the secrecy of correspondence could be lifted.

Nevertheless, and given the decision of the Judge, the FFE, which notes the absolute refusal by the defendants to have these documents handed to a bailiff, will not seek their communication, which in any case would merely have added to the different elements regarding the disciplinary case.

In any event, the Judge’s ruling only concerned the availability of the contents of the SMS exchanged, without addressing the case’s merits.

It is entirely up to the Disciplinary Committee to rule on the reality of the alleged acts of cheating, at its hearing on Saturday, March 19, 2011, at 10:30 AM, at Paris.

The FFE also wishes to emphasize that it had an absolute obligation to expedite this procedure in order to:

* Clear Mrs. Pomian of any eventual responsibility as owner of the incriminated phone line,
* Secondly, to respect, in accordance with commitments made to regulators, the sporting values and ethics that are the foundation of its existence.

Federal Bureau of FFE

(Translation by Albert Silver)


Previous reports

FFE accuses its own players of cheating
22.01.2011 – Shocking news: the French Chess Federation (FFE) has announced that it has initiated disciplinary action against three players – one of them one of France's most promising talents – on suspicion of "organized cheating, serious breach of sport ethics, undermining the image of the national Olympic team in Khanty-Mansyik". We are following the investigation. Press release.

Feller replies: 'I completely deny the cheating accusations'
24.01.2011 – Two days ago the French Chess Federation announced the investigation of three French players on suspicion of "organized cheating" at the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansyik. Now one of the three, 19-year-old French GM Sebastien Feller, has replied emphatically, implying that the entire action was a result of his support of the current FIDE president (the FFE supported his rival Karpov). Open letter.

Battesti: 'It's insulting to our president and his federation'
24.01.2011 – Instead of adopting an ostrich position the President of the French Chess Federation and his VP have initiated an investigation of French Olympiad members suspected of cheating. They have appointed Leo Battesti, a Sorbonne-educated lawyer, as the spokesperson for the Federation. Battesti has reacted to the criticism of one of the accused player with an interview in Europe Echecs.

French GMs: ''We express our full support of the FFE
27.01.2011 – Four grandmasters Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Vladislav Tkachiev and Romain Edouard have expressed their dismay at the charges brought against three of their colleagues who are accused of cheating. "If the allegations are found to be true, we will condemn them firmly," they write, in this public statement in Europe Echecs.

FFE: cheating not the first time, Biel statement
01.02.2011– The French Chess Federation disclosed they had evidence that the "organized cheating" accusation, which has rocked the chess world recently, is in fact not the first time. They have now mandated the Federal Bureau to take the case to trial in a court of law. Meanwhile the Organisers in Biel have issued a statement on the same players earlier last year in their Master Group. Open letters.



Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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