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Colonial Cases

Republique Francaise v. Fournel, 1891


Republique Francaise v. Fournel

French Consular Court, Shanghai
14 October 1891
Source: North China Herald, 16 October, 1891

Shanghai, 14th October 1891.
Before Consul-General Wagner and MM. Vouillement and Ricco, Assessors.
  J. Fournel, of the late firm of Schonhard and Co., was charged with embezzling certain sums of money belonging to the Compagnie du Gaz de la Concession Francaise de Shanghai, of which company Schonhard and Co. Were the secretaries. The charge was brought as the result of a discovery by the liquidators that instead of a credit balance at the Bank there was a debit, the difference amounting to some Tls. 13,000.
  Accused, who was defended by M. Bottu, was subjected by the Consul-General to an examination, in the course of which he denied the charge and stated that the deficit existed at the death of M. Nachtreb, the former head of Schonhard and Co. in 1886. Accused was asked to give some explanation of various items in the bank pass-book, and particularly of some entries which appeared therein, but said he was unable to do so.
  C. A. Black, a clerk in the employ of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, identified the Gas Company's pass-book, and stated that entries dated Dec 31st, 1889, and Jan. 18th, 1890, were made by him. There were some figures erased before this latter entry, but they had not been erased by witness. Erasures were strictly forbidden in the Bank. After the latter entry there was a total written in pencil, Tls. 3121.49. The "121.48" was in witness' handwriting but the "3" was not. In another entry, "064.66" was in witness' handwriting, but the figure preceding it was not.
  Cross-examined, witness said he was sure the "3" referred to was not in his handwriting.
  Jukes Toche, the syndic appointed to make an examination of the accounts, formally testified to the report he had drawn up, which was read.
  In the course of some further examination of the accused, the latter stated that the auditors of the Gas Company made their examination once in six months.
  The case was then adjourned till Saturday next at 2 p.m.


Source: North China Herald, 23 October, 1891

Shanghai, 17th October, 1891
Before Consul-General Wagner and MM. VOUILLEMONT AND RICCO, Assessors.
  J. Fournel, of the late firm if Schonhard and Co., was charged on remand with embezzling certain sums of money belonging to the Compagnie de Gaz de la Concession Francaise de Shanghai, of which Company Schonhard and Co. were the secretaries.
  M. Bottu again appeared for the defendant.
  M. Vinay, one of the auditors, deposed that he had verified the entries in the cash book and subsidiary books of the Gas Company. He did not think it his duty to ascertain if the amount of funds represented in the books actually existed. He merely verified the entries. He did not notice anything unusual about the accounts, and he had no reason to suspect the insolvency of Schonhard and Co.
  M. G. Lajeat, the other auditor, corroborated M. Vinay's evidence as to the non-verification of the cash by the auditors.  He considered that the auditors could not be expected, for instance, to see that the amount of coal shown in the accounts as in the possession of the Gas Company actually existed, and, for the same reason, they did not verify the cash balance. He had seen the pass-book sometimes, but had never demanded to see it. Nachtrib had said to witness "The pass-book is not here now for you to see, but it is all in order," or words to that effect. Witness did not consider the pass-book necessary for the purpose of the audit. The auditors made three examinations of the accounts this year - in January, February and June.
  The evidence given by absent witnesses - M. Moulron, formerly in the employ of Schonhard and Co., the compradore, and the former compradore and Shroff was then read. The old compradore stated that Nachtrib told him to pay the expenses of Schonhard and Co. with funds belonging to the Gas Company.  Schonhard and Co. had no funds at that time.
  A few questions in further examination were put to accused, who testified to an account (produced) showing the amount of his personal expenditure from 1888 to 1891.
  The Consul-General stated that an error in dates had been discovered in M. Toche's report, and a new report had been demanded. As it was not then forthcoming, the case would be adjourned till Monday next at 10 a.m.
19th Oct.
  M. Toche now produced his amended report, and formal evidence of the institution of the prosecution was given by Mr. Francis, one of the late directors of the Gas Company.
  M. Bottu then addressed the Court on behalf of the accused, and at the conclusion of his remarks the Court adjourned till the afternoon to consider judgment.
  At the re-assembling of the Court, the Consul-General read the judgment, which was to the effect that it had been proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the accused had systematically falsified the books and had appropriated the funds of the Gas Company since 1886, the date of Nachtrib's death.
  The Court found that there were extenuating circumstances, inasmuch as a deficit existed at that time;  but accused ought not to have accepted the situation and proceeded as he did.
  The sentence of the Court was six months' imprisonment; but as this was accused's first offence, under the recently passed "Loi Beranger" (named after the late Minister of Justice) the sentence would not take effect provided that for the space of five years to come accused was guilty of no other offence.  In the event of his being found guilty a second time during that period, he will undergo double the sentence passed for his first offence, and in addition be liable to punishment for the second, whatever it may be.
  We are unable to publish the judgment in extenso, the Consul-General having declined to furnish a copy in less than eight days.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School