Trial of French Uber executives begins

The trial of two Uber executives in France charged in connection with their operation of the service began Wednesday with the ride-hailing company trying to stall the case.

Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, who leads the firm in Western Europe, and General Manager for France Thibaud Simphal face six charges, according to the Wall Street Journal. The counts are varied and include violating data protection laws and running an illegal taxi service.

They could face prison time or a large fine if convicted of the charges.

Uber spent the first part of Wednesday’s hearing asking that the case be delayed or thrown out, the Journal reported. It has cited a variety of procedural reasons for postponing the trial. The Journal reported that the presiding judge rejected at least one Uber motion.

Lawyers for Uber argued that the government was moving particularly quickly in the case to appease taxi drivers opposed to the story, according to the Journal. The prosecutor reportedly said the court should move ahead with the trial.

The two are being charged, in part, under a law passed in Paris that forbids connecting passengers with drivers who don’t have professional licenses. Uber has argued that the law is meant solely to block Uberpop, a service essentially equivalent to UberX in the United States.

Uberpop was the subject of riots held by taxi drivers earlier this year. Uber ultimately suspended the service after the riots and the arrest of the executives, because it said it feared for the safety of its drivers. The Journal also reported that the company was under pressure from the French government to shut Uberpop down.

Uber has said it believed that the law blocking Uberpop would be overturned by the court. But a French court upheld the law last week.

Uber has grown to a reported $51 billion valuation through aggressive expansion made possible by a willingness to toe legal lines in different municipalities. The trial will test that strategy in Europe at a time when the company is looking to expand its offerings around the world.