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“Under the guise of the fight against corruption and terrorism, the extra-territoriality of American law is a weapon of economic war”

The American flag, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 15. PATRICK SMITH / AFP

De the dehumanizing coldness of an American high security detention center with the paneling of the Luxembourg Palace … What can happen in Frédéric Pierucci's head this December 16, 2019, while he is getting ready, in the salons of the Senate, to receive from the hands of Jean-Pierre Chevènement the Human Rights Literary Prize for his book The American Trap (JC Lattès, 480 pages, 22 euros) co-written with journalist Matthieu Aron? For the past six years, this former executive officer of Alstom has known everything: infamy, betrayal, fear, before tasting recognition and success in recent months.

As head of the French group’s boiler subsidiary, there was nothing to predict him becoming such a winner. But his life turned upside down on April 14, 2013 when, when his plane had just landed in New York, two FBI agents handcuffed him as soon as he got out of the plane. What was supposed to be an ordinary three-day business trip is turning into a nightmare. The man finds himself at the heart of a judicial imbroglio on the background of economic war between France and the United States, which will lead him to be imprisoned for two years in the worst conditions.

Not a simple twist

At the time, Alstom was in the crosshairs of the American justice system for corruption offenses dating back to 2004. Bribes had been paid to Indonesian officials in order to win a contract. The procedure is part of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This law makes it possible to apply American law to foreign persons or companies, provided that they have a link, however tenuous, with the United States. The use of the dollar in a transaction or the existence of a legal entity on American soil is sufficient for the justice department to exercise exorbitant powers of extraterritoriality.

But very quickly, Frédéric Pierucci realizes that his arrest is not just a simple episode in the context of an anti-corruption operation. He is convinced that he was instrumentalized in a case, the ultimate goal of which was to weaken Alstom so that the company was sold to General Electric with the complicity of American justice.

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The whole affair is told by the menu in his book, published in January. Beyond his legitimate desire to deliver his share of truth in this mind-blowing thriller, Frédéric Pierucci has since launched into a fight against the extraterritoriality of American law. “I now devote most of my time to alerting businesses and governments to the urgency to react”, he explains.

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