Two French journalists face court over blackmailing Moroccan King to not publish 'scandalous' book on royal family
Two French journalists face the court today Monday for blackmailing the Moroccan King over a ‘scandalous’ book on the Moroccan royal family. Their defence intends to demonstrate that they have been "trapped".
Eric Laurent, 75, and Catherine Graciet, 48, were arrested in August 2015 after receiving a two million euro transaction to not publish 'scandalous revelations' about the Moroccan monarchy.
Seven years after the eruption of the scandal, the two journalists are scheduled to face a Parisian court today Monday against the Moroccan kingdom's lawyers for blackmailing charges.
On 23 July 2015, Eric Laurent, a former reporter for Radio France, contacted the secretariat of the King of Morocco to obtain an appointment. The meeting finally took place on 11 August, with an emissary of the monarchy, the Moroccan lawyer Hicham Naciri.
During this meeting, Laurent, who co-wrote the book "The Predator King" in 2012 with Graciet, announced the forthcoming publication of a second book on Mohammed VI, containing potentially embarrassing information for the monarchy.
Here, the versions diverge: according to the journalist, it was the emissary who offered him a financial agreement for the non-publication of the book.
The Moroccan Kingdom says the proposal came from the journalists, who asked for three million euros.
On 20 August, Morocco filed a complaint in Paris, and an investigation was opened.
Two other meetings followed in the same month, during which the negotiated sum was reduced to two million euros.
The two journalists were then given two envelopes, each containing 40,000 euros in notes. All this happened under the discreet surveillance of the police, who had arrested them as they left the scene.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan king's emissary had secretly recorded each of the meetings, before giving a copy to the investigators.
These clandestine recordings were deemed "illegal" by the defence of the two journalists.
However, the Court of Cassation, the highest French court, validated the recordings' legality in 2017.
Following the scandal, the Éditions du Seuil decided not to publish the book as its "relationship of trust" with the authors had been "dissolved."
Eric Laurent is a former reporter for Radio France and Le Figaro Magazine, columnist for France Culture, and author of numerous books, including a controversial one on 11 September 2001.
Catherine Graciet has worked in Morocco and published books on the Maghreb region.
The two journalists face five years imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.
During the investigation, the journalists admitted having accepted a contract to "dispose" of the book, whose geopolitical consequences "worried" them, but they disputed any threats and blackmail.
"The two defendants fell into a trap, a trap set by the Moroccan services," said Serge Portelli, Laurent's lawyer, to AFP.
The lawyer for the Kingdom of Morocco, Antoine Vey, did not wish to make a statement, according to AFP.
Over the past decade, Moroccan authorities banned several books that targeted the royal family, including "Le Roi Prédateur" (The Predator King) by Eric Laurent and Catherine Graciet, and "Notre Ami Le Roi" (Our Friend, the King) by Gilles Perrault.