Legal battle amid claims of conflicts of interest against top French winemakers

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Two leading names in winemaking in the prestigious wine area of Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux region of south-west France have been accused of an illegal conflict of interest. A judge sent Hubert de Boüard de Laforest and Philippe Castéja for trial over claims that they had helped set the rules over who could qualify as a top-ranking Saint-Émilion wine producer, rules from which they themselves benefited. However, in a new and unusual twist after many years of legal procedure, local prosecutors have appealed against the judge's decision to send the two influential men for trial. Mediapart's legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan explains the background to the case.

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In September 2018 two leading figures in the wine region of Saint-Émilion near Bordeaux – one of the most prestigious in France – were placed under formal investigation over claims of an illegal conflict of interest. Just under a year later, on August 16th 2019, the two men, Hubert de Boüard de Laforest, aged 63, co-owner of the Château Angélus and a consultant wine expert and Philippe Castéja, 70, owner of the Château Trottevieille and a leading wine merchant, were sent for trial. They are accused of helping to draw up rules about what qualifies as a top-ranking Saint-Émilion wine while at the same time benefiting from those same rules as wine producers.