Mulhouse Olympic Swimming (MON), one of the top clubs in France over the last 20 years, was indicted for attempted fraud at the end of May, and now more details have surfaced regarding what led to its current dire financial situation.
The club has long been a staple in Mulhouse, a commune in eastern France, and fort the last 10 years, it has had an agreement with the agglomeration of Mulhouse (M2A) that allowed it to use the Mulhouse Olympic Pool, which is paid for by public funds.
However, on January 1, 2022, the agreement between the two parties will likely end, though that is not yet official.
The recent news that the club, along with former president Charles Laurent Horter, were indicted for attempted fraud and placed under the status of assisted witness, stems from an October 2020 investigation, according to France Bleu.
That investigation showed that the club was ordered to pay 60,000 euros to Yannick Agnel, one of the club’s many notable alumni, for contracts not honored. There was also a complaint from the parent of a swimmer that claimed he never received financial aid that was promised.
However, that investigation is just a small part of the story at Mulhouse.
Since January 2020, the club, and particularly current president Franck Horter and his brother Lionel, one of the club coaches, began being investigated by the financial section of the Mulhouse police, citing possible embezzlement of public funds and tax evasion.
M2A initially supported the club, but ultimately launched an audit to get to the bottom of what was going on, per France Bleu.
The investigation showed that the club was in a dire financial situation, with several red flags popping up. Reports said it was “impossible” to know if the public subsidies issued to the club were used for their intended purpose, and that there was a lot of money movement between the club and certain companies belonging to the Horter family.
All of this came despite M2A paying water and heating costs, which were nearing 400,000 euros per year.
The club’s accounts also have two structures – sporting and leisure – with the “association” running the former, subsidized by the community, and the Horter family’s private company, MON Club, managing the latter. The two appeared to have been inexplicably mixed, with an example given that the reception staff, exclusively employed by the association and therefore financed by public funds, also did work for the MON Club.
The report says that the flow of money between the two is “sometimes inexplicable, and unexplained,” with it appearing clear that public money paid to the association could end up with the private company without any reasonable explanation. The auditors’ investigation also found no proof that the club used the 500,000 euros of subsidies for club purposes.
Moving forward, the allocation of subsidies will be tightened and the controls on their use will be reinforced, according to M2A. An announcement is expected to come soon that the Horter family will relinquish control of the club beginning in 2022. It is anticipated that the Horter family will have to liquidate the MON Club company that managed the leisure part of the business. Due to uncertainties of future public funding, whether or not the club has a long-term future is in doubt.