Pressure was growing Friday on French authorities after the surprise revelation CCTV footage from the Stade de France during the Champions League final last month has been deleted, with critics alleging a deliberate cover-up.
The French Football Federation revealed Thursday to a commission at the French Senate the images had been destroyed automatically having not been subject to a warrant from judicial authorities, in line with French law.
The revelation added to the controversy after crowd control problems, tear gas and street crime marred the final at Paris’ Stade de France between Liverpool and Real Madrid on 28 May.
France’s reputation has taken a battering, as laid out in a government report on Friday.
The report said the “chain of failures” by French authorities has inflicted “severe damage” on the image of the country as it prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2024.
Opposition politicians seized on the latest revelations about the CCTV footage to hammer the authorities.
“It’s called covering your tracks,”
far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen told BFMTV on Friday.
“The fact that there is no CCTV footage allows their huge lies to be covered,”
Le Pen added, pointing to the initial claim from the French government that fake tickets on an ‘industrial-scale’ caused the pandemonium.
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Police asked Stade de France for the footage, but only on Thursday evening after it became public that the images had been destroyed, a source close to the case told AFP Friday.
“Yesterday’s information that the images would not be kept for one month, but only a few days, led us to ask for them,” Bobigny prosecutors, in charge of the investigation into fake tickets, said.
The Stade de France is allowed to store CCTV footage for a maximum of 30 days, but the servers only have the capacity to store them for seven or eight.
On Twitter French police said Thursday the images taken by the Stade de France cameras may no longer exist but they still had their images.
But Socialist vice-president of the Senate’s law commission David Assouline said Friday on Franceinfo radio he was “stupefied” by the news, adding it demonstrated an “incredible lack of coordination” between the police and politicians.
“We’re trying to see if we can get the footage back,”
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Friday.
Liverpool mayor Steve Rotheram, questioned by the Senate commission after the FFF delegation, said that he failed “to understand why the videos were destroyed”.
“We’re heading straight towards a state scandal,” the head of the opposition Republicans (LR) faction in the Senate, Bruno Retailleau, told RFI radio, adding the destruction of the CCTV footage was an “intentional act … to make evidence disappear”.
But ruling party MP Aurore Berge said on RMC radio that there were enough elements for the investigation.
“We have plenty of witness statements and images that should nonetheless guide (the investigators),” Berge said.
LR president of the Senate law commission Francois-Noel Buffet told BFMTV that if it came out that the images were not collected or preserved voluntarily, “then obviously things would become much more serious”.
On Thursday the chief of the Paris police Didier Lallement admitted in front of the Senate commission investigating the May 28 chaos that the security operations for the Champions League final were a “failure”.
Lallement and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin initially blamed the mayhem on as many as 40 000 Liverpool fans who massed at the stadium without tickets or with counterfeit tickets.
That figure has been widely disputed since by witnesses and media using images from the ground, and Lallement admitted yesterday: “Perhaps I made a mistake with the figure I gave to the minister”.
He acknowledged there were not 30 000 to 40 000 “at the gates of the stadium” but maintained that several thousands were “in the vicinity” of police checkpoints at the Stade de France to the north of the capital.
The government report said the triggering factor for the chaotic scenes was the “uncontrolled influx of additional members of the public without tickets or with fake ones, in unprecedented proportions”.
But it added Darmanin’s initial claim that as many as 40 000 Liverpool fans who massed at the stadium were to blame for the chaos should be “relativised”.
© Agence France-Presse