Accused of killing protected turtles and destroying their habitat during a construction site, the entrepreneur Patrick Rocca, one of the first employers in Corsica, was sentenced on Tuesday to a fine of 150,000 euros and six months in prison suspended by the court of Ajaccio.
On December 9, 2019, “six corpses of Hermann’s tortoises and one fatally injured” had been discovered by agents of the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) on a site managed by Patrick Rocca and his company Fortimmo in Grosseto-Prugna (Corse-du-Sud).
On this site intended for the construction of 162 dwellings, OFB agents had estimated that 3.5 ha of turtle habitat were “altered” and 2.8 ha “destroyed” and had asked for the work to be stopped. But these had continued and on December 14, two additional corpses and a “dying turtle” had been found.
Patrick Rocca was therefore prosecuted for mutilation and unauthorized destruction of a protected animal species as well as for the alteration and destruction of their habitat. His company Fortimmo was also prosecuted for unauthorized infringement of conservation of the natural habitat of a protected species.
Corsica, the last refuge of Hermann’s tortoise
Following the hearing held on October 17, the company was ordered on Tuesday to pay a fine of 500,000 euros. Damages will have to be paid to the State and to the environmental defense association U Levante in the amount of 500,000 and 30,000 euros respectively.
“These sums are, to say the least, excessive in view of the usual case law”, commented to AFP the lawyer for Patrick Rocca, Me Philippe Gatti, who had pleaded for release in the name of “lack of evidence”. In fact, the convictions exceed the requisitions of the Advocate General, who had asked at the hearing for a fine of 140,000 euros for Patrick Rocca and 300,000 euros against the company.
Patrick Rocca, who has 13 convictions on his criminal record, employs 1,400 people in his group, including a thousand in Corsica, making him one of the island’s leading employers. With the Var, the island of Beauty is the last refuge of Hermann’s tortoise, the only land tortoise in mainland France, classified as vulnerable on the national red list of threatened species and protected at international, European and French level.