A court in Reims has ordered the part-seizure of vineyards owned by a wine grower in Marne and sentenced him to 18 months in prison for illegally using several hundred Polish workers for grape-harvesting in Champagne.
The case related to illegal employment and money laundering carried out between 2008 and 2011. The court heard that the defendant, based in the village of Sept-Saulx, had set up a company in Poland which employed hundreds of Polish nationals to work on the harvest for several Champagne houses.
In line with a recommendation from the prosecutor, the court ordered the confiscation of about 70 hectares of vineyards, which investigators said had been acquired using the proceeds of the fraud. In addition, five Champagne houses which had used the seasonal workers were sentenced to fines of 12,000 euros ($15,375), half of which was suspended.
The investigation, led by the OCLTI, the central body responsible for combating illegal employment in France, had established that the company set up by the defendant was a “simple mailbox,” which was not registered with the Polish authorities.
Speaking to AFP, defense lawyer Emmanuel Ludot claimed: "The court did not want to apply the Bolkestein Directive on the freedom of work because it was not part of France’s labor code, so the former directives were applied.”
The Bolkestein Directive, permitting freedom of movement of services, including workers, was adopted by the European Union in 2006.