A senior Senate official suspected of spying for North Korea, of trying to recruit researchers and a weapons engineer, of helping to hunt down North Korean dissidents: the poster was good. The indictment, on November 29, 2018, of Benoît Quennedey for “collection, delivery of information to a foreign power” and “intelligence” with the Pyongyang regime even seemed to reinforce the success of French intelligence, at the origin of the accusations. . Three and a half years later, justice has yet to curtly return the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) to the ropes.
As indicated by Le Parisien, the investigating judges in charge of the investigation issued, on April 29, a dismissal order in favor of Mr. Quennedey, thus following the requisitions of the prosecution. For his lawyer, Me Florian Lastelle, this case reminds us to what extent the judicialization of intelligence raises questions about the loyalty of the evidence, the absence of adversarial evidence and the right of intelligence services never to reveal the origin of their information. .
It all started with the transmission, at the beginning of 2018, to the Paris prosecutor’s office of a report drawn up by the DGSI’s counter-espionage service assuring, without reservation, that Mr. Quennedey, a forty-year-old civil servant from the Senate Parks and Gardens Department, was “an agent of influence” for the benefit of North Korea, one of the world’s most closed dictatorships. The intelligence then described him as “a traitor”, a grievance which earned him, after a short preliminary investigation, to be arrested, indicted and placed under judicial control.
The judicial inquiry first focused on accusations of intervening with French researchers on behalf of North Koreans. The DGSI believed that the official had canvassed scientists in order to obtain information serving the interests of North Korea. Implicitly, intelligence even suggests that this was ultimately intended to support Pyongyang’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.
“My client has never denied his relationship with the North Korean representatives in France. But the judges found no trace of these far-fetched accusations, nothing on the collection of information for the benefit of a foreign power, and even less on nuclear power,” observes Me Lastelle. At the end of their investigations, the magistrates have, in fact, considered that nothing came to support the assertions of the DGSI.
According to our information, the other main grievance against Mr. Quennedey related to his search for information concerning a North Korean student who disappeared while he was studying architecture in France. The DGSI estimated that he was then acting on behalf of the North Korean authorities in Paris. What does not appear in the legal file is that France helped this young man to flee his country and to evade the attention of the representatives of his country stationed in Paris, by finding him a country of welcome abroad. “All of this is false, protests Me Lastelle again. My client explained, without even being asked, that he was worried about her disappearance. He knew him well and liked him. »
Mr. Quennedey also seems to have attracted the attention of the French services by his activism in favor of North Korea: a dozen trips there, frequent contacts with the representatives of this regime in France and several works published on this country seeking to highlight the positive aspects of this pariah of the international community. Finally, in addition to his numerous visits to the Paris headquarters of the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, under the eyes of DGSI agents, the person concerned often defended Pyongyang in the media.
“Lightness of Intelligence”
“We saw it with Russia, people of this type naively believe they can play a role in the field of international relations, when they are only pawns in the service of hostile interests”, explains to Le Monde an executive of the Ministry of the Interior having knowledge of the file. According to Mr. Lastelle, this file underlines, on the contrary, “the lightness of French intelligence, which has lost all credibility here”.
For him, the dismissal of the judges is a clear message addressed to the intelligence services. “This case is a fiasco that destroyed a man’s life for almost four years based on the fantasies of the DGSI. To be convinced of this, it is enough to see the extreme imprecision of the initial report sent to justice: at no time did we know what justified the accusations of the DGSI, nor anything about the origin of these peremptory assertions. and false. »
Compensation proceedings are underway and his lawyer is considering possible lawsuits against the state for “misconduct”. His client has since returned to his duties. “The Senate took less time to suspend it than to resume it”, cowardly, bitter, Me Lastelle.