On Sept. 16, French authorities raided the Aviation Club the France (ACF) in Paris and took several people into custody with accusations that moved from irregularities in the employment of a part of the room’s personnel to money laundering.
Since then, the doors of what is considered to be one of Europe's most prestigious and fascinating gambling rooms have remained closed, causing significant damages to its management, its clients, and the 213 people that used to consider the ACF their place of employment.
While the accusations have yet to be proven, authorities have decided to impose the administrative closure of the ACF with a measure that the room’s management considers to be "unjustified and unfair."
To react to the situation and raise public awareness, during the past weeks the room has promoted a social “#BringBackACF” campaign that was quickly endorsed by top personalities of the poker world as Bruno Fitoussi, Liv Boeree, and Bruno Lopes.
However, given the lack of answers from France’s administrative authorities, the ACF has decided to step up its campaign and ask the country’s President of the Republic Françoise Hollande to intervene and save the club by making sure the ACF receives a fair and legitimate treatment.
On Oct. 31, the ACF reached out to PokerNews giving us the opportunity to publish their open letter to France's president in its full integrity. Below is the text that the ACF has sent to President Hollande:
Dear President of the French Republic, Mr. François Hollande,
Since Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, the Aviation Club the France — a 'respectable old lady from the Champs-Élysées' — is in danger.
This internationally known institution is currently the subject of an unfair persecution by the authorities. And if I write you today, Mr. President of the Republic, it is not to ask you to save the Aviation Club de France. It is to tell you why we must save the Aviation Club de France.
The property located at the number 104 of one of the most beautiful avenues in the world opened its doors in 1907.
For the past 107 years, the Aviation Club de France has welcomed hundreds and hundreds of players and has always operated within the legal framework defined by the state. For the past 107 years, at the Aviation Club the France people have amused themselves and have even created businesses that have generated revenues for the State.
If tomorrow the Aviation Club de France had to close its doors, where do you think all these people would go? What do you think they would do?
The death of this old lady would lead to the creation of dozens of illegal and dangerous activities that would not bring anything to the State. Are you ready, Mr. President, to legitimate the birth of such a clandestine network?
And are you willing to send 213 men and women to unemployment? Some dealers have worked at the Aviation Club de France for decades: what will they do if the Club will close? What will happen to their families?
Is it really conceivable to put on the street 213 people in the difficult time we live in? Is it really conceivable to deprive the state of the tax revenue that the ACF generates? Is it really conceivable to persecute a respectable lady that has always operated according to the law?
Because yes, Mr. President, the Aviation Club de France is the victim of an unjustified and unfair attack from the authorities.
On Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, officers from Central Service of Racing and Games have searched the club in Paris, and even if it was for an investigation that refers to episodes that would have happened between 2009 and 2011, authorities have seized, among other things, our financial books of 2014. And we need those documents to operate.
In early Oct., the judge Claire Thépaut impounded those documents, even if — to date — our books have remained sealed and have never been seen by investigators.
The administrative closure of the club was imposed in October by the Council of State against the opinion of the prosecutor's office.
The same prosecutor, then, called the association that controls the Aviation Club the France to appear in front of Paris Commercial Court to be placed into receivership. The association will have to go to court on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, even if it has never experienced any financial difficulty and it has never been insolvent.
As you can see from the facts above Mr. President, we are victims of an obstinate persecution.
All our permissions to operate have been always legally granted so far, but today the Aviation Club de France, its 213 employees and hundreds of players are all waiting. They expect consistency in what the authorities do, and thus they expect a rapid reopening.
That is why, Mr. President of the Republic, we think you should help us to save 'the old lady from the Champs-Élysées.' This is why, Mr. President, we need your help to stop the persecution the Aviation Club the France is a victim of.
*The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the authors and of the Aviation Club de France, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the author of the article nor of PokerNews.
**Image courtesy of Bridoz.com