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    Schneider group taxes legal steps to advance Belgian inquiry

    Minimum Requirements for Due Process Necessitate change of Venue of Evidence Gathering to France

    Paris, August 31 - Attorneys for Schneider Groupe, the French electricaI equipment and construction company, have today taken steps to advance proceedings in the inquiry commenced in Belgium concerning its affiliates there.

    Schneider Chairman Didier Pineau-Valencienne restate his willingness to cooperate with the Belgian inquiry as long as minimum requirements for due process are guaranteed under the authority of French Judicial authorities in France,

    Simultaneously, because of serious violations of procedures, Schneider attorneys acted to quash the proceedings to date in Belgium to ensure minimum standards of fairness in such investigations.

    The violations include:

    - Grave irregularities, concerning the manner in which Schneider's chairman was interrogated including inappropriate use of extended detention.

    - The inability and/or unwillingness of Belgian judicial authorities to respect the confidential nature of the investigation, leading to the disclosure of fragmentary and misleading information prejudicial to the Groupe.

    Following advice of counsel, Schneider, through its chairman, has informed the Belgian judicial authorities that it is still ready to cooperate to provide all the information necessary to clarify outstanding questions. However, the need to assure minimum standards of due process would require that such evidence-gathering continue in France, under the authority of French judicial authorities.

    Schneider's French Iegal counsel has conferred with the French Justice Department to Inform them of this position, and confirmed this via a letter dated August 18, 1994. In this context, Schneider attorneys in Belgium have today commenced legal proceedings to quash the investigation to date in Belgium because of lack of required procedural safeguards that would have assured minimum standards of due process when Didier Pineau-Valencienne was questioned on May 26, 1994.

    This action is based on violations of Belgian judicial procedures as well as violation of the 1959 European Convention on Judicial Cooperation, Belgian procedures were gravely violated through the extended detention of Schneider's chairman solely for the purpose of accelerated information-gathering, an explanation given by Belgian judicial authorities themselves, Specific violations of the Convention include disregard of protective measures required concerning detention and inappropriate procedures used in summonses.

    The steps taken today by the Schneider Group aim to ensure minimum requirements of due process in order to advance the inquiry, The Group remains committed to demonstrating clearly that accusations concerning the relationship between the Group and its Belgium affiliates are totally without merit.

    Press Contact:
    Schneider Electric
    Véronique Moine
    Tel. +33 (0)1 41 29 70 76
    Fax +33 (0)1 41 29 71 95