Excess cocaine in France: “We are losing the war against drug trafficking in Marseille”

Excess cocaine in France: “We are losing the war against drug trafficking in Marseille”

The brutal freeing operation of alleged drug trafficker Mohamed Amra in France on Tuesday drew attention to a problem that an alarming Senate investigation report had picked up on the same day: France has a huge problem with drug trafficking.

Two prison officers were killed and three others seriously injured in the attack on a prison transport in northern France. Fugitive prisoner Amra, also known as “the fly,” and his four accomplices remain at large.

According to police sources, Amra only occupied a middle level in the hierarchy of drug traffickers. However, there was apparently enough money and power at stake to free him from such a risky and bloody operation.

3.5

billion euros Annual turnover in France in the pharmaceutical sector

This corresponds to the threatening picture of the situation in France painted by the President and the Commission’s rapporteur, Senators Jérôme Durain and Etienne Blanc. As a consumer and transit country, it is said to be “flooded by drug trafficking.” They estimate annual sales of at least 3.5 billion euros.

They also warn of growing corruption among prison security personnel.
In some areas of the city, the intrusion of the drug mafia makes life unbearable, they say. Brutal agreements between rival gangs sometimes ended with the “murder of collateral victims.”

Last September, in Marseille, a 24-year-old student was accidentally shot dead in her apartment. This is the 43rd death linked to organized crime in the Mediterranean city since the beginning of the year.

A police officer stands next to a “menu” of drugs at a sales point in the Maison-Blanche housing complex, north of Marseille.

© dpa/NICOLÁS TUCAT

The port city is a major hub for trafficking cocaine and other substances. “We are losing the war against drug trafficking in Marseille,” warned lawyer Isabelle Couderc, according to the report.

The French overseas territories are the starting point

But organized crime is also increasing in rural areas and in medium-sized cities such as Besançon or Creusot. Furthermore, the French overseas territories acted as “the main departure point for drug trafficking to Europe.”

The French Guiana airport was recently equipped with special luggage scanners and body scanners, which are still missing on the Antillean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

No shortage of warnings

For Michel Gandilhon, researcher at the French Observatory on Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), the question arises as to whether these findings are really followed by actions. “There has been no shortage of warnings for 30 years, but until now drug trafficking has been allowed to expand,” he explains to the AIO Information.

In some districts a loss of the state monopoly on violence can be observed. “There the republican order is being undermined and a different order is being introduced.” These are not at all “anarchic zones” and without any authority, but, on the contrary, they are under the influence of criminal gangs.

We must ensure that the cost of entering into crime is very high.

Michel Gandilhondrug expert

According to the expert, customs should be better equipped and the judiciary should be strengthened financially and in terms of personnel. He also calls for more compelling criminal justice responses.

Drug traffickers are quite rational and calculate costs and benefits, says Gandilhon: “We have to make sure that the costs of getting into crime are very high.”

Many people find it acceptable to serve a five-year prison sentence, especially if they have saved huge sums of money. “But if we go up to 20 or 30 years, as established by the Penal Code, the story is completely different.”

Controls on street merchants are not enough

The two senators also advocate for stronger government reactions. Campaigns in all media such as those called “Place Nette” (translatable as “clean thoroughly”) do not get to the root of the problem, they say. President Emmanuel Macron mobilized 900 police officers in Marseille in March to take action against drug dealers on the streets.

“We forget that there are transportation, logistics, international cooperation and the dimension of money laundering,” said Senator Durain.

Most drug cartel bosses are based abroad, often in the United Arab Emirates. These are “safe havens” where there are hardly any arrests or extraditions.

In their report, the senators recommend, among other things, involving the secret services in the fight against drug trafficking and creating a specialized department within the prosecutor’s office.

It is also about hitting the perpetrators in the wallet, for example by confiscating funds without a criminal conviction or the possibility of freezing them. Actions such as releasing the “fly” should no longer be worth it.

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