Brassed off: trumpet suppliers face ruin over French military bands' unpaid bills


Two entrepreneurs who run a business supplying musical instruments have been taken to court by their creditors. The businessmen, however, say their financial woes are due entirely to France's ministry of defence which has not paid them for many of the clarinets, trumpets, violins and other instruments they have supplied to military bands over the last four years. In total the company says the armed forces still owe them a staggering 370,000 euros. As Thomas Saint-Cricq reports, other small businesses also complain that the ministry is very slow to pay its bills. 

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One morning back in July 2012 Pierre Vicogne carefully slid three trumpets each worth 2,500 euros into their protective cases. Vicogne, who runs musical instrument suppliers 'Cuivres et Bois' ('Brass and Wood') in Lille in northern France, then packaged and sent the trumpets off to their final destination; the French air force band based at Bordeaux in the south-west of the country.

However, a full month later, in August 2012, Vicogne, who runs the company with business partner Frédéric Langlet, received a phone call from the man in charge of stock control at the Bordeaux-Mérignac air force base. He was not happy. There were only two trumpets in the three instrument cases that had been sent, said the stock controller. As a result the military would not be paying for the entire delivery.