Corsican construction tycoon Patrick Rocca was fined 150,000 euros on Tuesday for harming protected turtles on a construction site even after authorities told him to stop.
Six dead specimens of the species known as Hermann’s tortoise and another “mortally wounded” animal were found when officers from France’s biodiversity agency inspected the site in December 2019.
About 3.5 hectares of the habitat just outside the capital of the Mediterranean island of Ajaccio was disturbed and 2.8 hectares were destroyed, investigators found, calling for a halt to work.
But Roca’s company Fortimo — one of the largest employers on the French Mediterranean island, with about 1,000 local workers — continued construction, and days later more dead turtles were found.
His conviction for mutilation and unauthorized destruction of protected animal species and their habitat follows a court ruling against Fortimo, who had to pay a fine of 500,000 euros ($540,000) and a total of 530,000 euros in damages.
Rocca’s lawyer Philip Gatti called the sentences “excessive.”
Corsica is one of the last places where Hermann’s tortoises — the only species native to France — still live in the wild.
They are protected by France and the European Union, as well as internationally.