After the death of two undocumented workers, their employer sentenced to prison

On June 8, 2019, on the rehabilitation site of the La Source housing estate, in Epinay-sur-Seine, two men, Kamel Benstaali, 34, and Omar Azzouz, 29, died. While working on the 18th floor of a building, the pod they were standing on came off. The victims are undocumented workers, and were not trained to perform work at height.

End of January 2023, during the trial of this case appeared 7 men, including one on the run, and three construction companies. There was mentioned an expert report, pointing out the “anchor fault” of the platform. The basket had not been mounted “in the rules of art” and the expert who had to check the conformity of the installation “admitted not having carried out the static test”considering that “this control was of no great use”explained his lawyer.

Voluntary homicide and concealed work

On April 4, 2023, the verdict fell. In total, the convicted persons and their companies will jointly pay 50,000 euros to each of the families of the victims, in compensation for moral damage.

Above all, the manager of the subcontracting company SRI, who had hired the two victims shortly before the tragedy, was sentenced to one year in prison. On the run in Egypt, his country of origin, he is the subject of an arrest warrant. His right arm is sentenced to three years in prison, six months of which is closed, and will not be able to manage a business for ten years. Both men were found partially guilty of intentional homicide and concealed work.

Difficulty defining responsibilities

They are not the only ones to have been condemned. The person in charge of the verifications of the installations is sentenced to two years in prison, of which six months are suspended. The manager of Technimat, which installed thescaffolding, is for his part sentenced to 18 months in prison suspended, his company to a fine of 30,000 euros. The manager of another subcontractor, ISO Systems, received a one-year suspended prison sentence, his company fined 45,000 euros.

The lawyer for the families of two victims, Me Jean-Philippe Feldman, estimated the decisions “balanced in relation to the prosecutor’s requisitions”. The epilogue of a lawsuit which highlighted the poor working conditions of employees of subcontracted construction companies, the multitude of companies involved and the difficulty of defining responsibilities, sentences of up to eight complexity of defining responsibilities at the end of the chain. As a reminder, a bill has been tabled in Parliament to “put an end to cascading outsourcing” and its sometimes dramatic consequences.

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