Disgraced Ex-Director of Centre Pompidou to Plead Guilty to Misuse of Public Funds

Agnès Saal spent €89,000 of public money on taxis.

Agnes Saal, President of the "Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA, a repository of all French radio and television audiovisual archives poses at the INA headquarters in Bry-sur-Marne, east of Paris, in 2014. Photo by Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images.

Agnès Saal, the former managing director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, has pleaded guilty to misuse of public funds after she was exposed for taking €40,000 ($45,000) worth of taxis in 10 months while she was director of the National Audiovisual Institute (INA) in France.

Two separate hearings will be held, one on April 11 in Créteil High Court, over the €40,000 Saal spent at the INA; and the other on April 15 in Paris, regarding the €38,000 ($43,000) she spent previously, between January 2013 and April 2014, while she was executive director at the Centre Pompidou, reports AFP.

The scandal emerged first when Saal was exposed by French newspaper Le Figaro in April 2015 for running up this inconceivably large taxi bill during her tenure at INA. Later on, it also came to light that she had also totted up a huge taxi bill during her tenure at the Pompidou.

Once exposed, Saal was asked to resign by the then French culture minister, Fleur Pellerin—herself no stranger to controversy—and did so within 48 hours. Following this, in January 2016, President François Hollande barred Saal from working in the civil service for 18 months.

By pleading guilty, Saal avoids a public trial—to the great disappointment of her critics, who would like to see her answer publicly for her crimes. Saal has become, for many, a public representation of corruption within the civil service in France.

Jérôme Karsenti, the lawyer who represents anti-corruption group Anticor— which took action against Saal prior to this investigation—expressed his disappointment.

“This case merited a public audience on the use of public funds by high-level state employees,” he told AFP.

In her defense, Saal has claimed that she had no idea that there was a limit on the number of taxis she could take. But given that €6,700 ($7,639) of the €40,000 of what she spent was accrued by her son, and marked under “emergency,” most people tend to believe that she was simply gaming the system.

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