From Colombia to Thiais: the sweet journey of cocaine

Based on this scam, amounting to 100,000 euros, the department’s public financial services then identify a phantom company, which claims to have 142 employees, with a manager based in Nice. The case is forwarded to the Financial Forensic Investigation Service (SEJF), which depends on the Ministry of Finance. New discovery: the leader is fictional. His identity has been robbed. The company is also linked to other companies. “A real spider web. We identify economic movements and imports of goods that we do not understand. Sometimes it’s fish, sometimes tobacco, sometimes sugar “remembers Christophe Perruaux, the SEJF director.

Investigators quickly became suspicious of drug trafficking and money laundering and continued the investigation together with Junalco (national jurisdiction responsible for combating organized crime) and Ofast, the Office specializing in the fight against drugs. A collaboration that bears fruit and knows how to seize information from the Americans about a shipment of 22 tons of sugar mixed with cocaine to leave the port of Cartagena (Colombia) in the direction of France.

The cargo will be tracked end-to-end from Colombia to Le Havre to Thiais, passing through a marina in the Dominican Republic. According to Le Monde, “one – eighth of the total cargo was contaminated, in proportions ranging from 3% to 15%”.

The new cocaine laboratories in Europe

It is in Thiais that the drug must be processed in the laboratory to be separated from the sugar. “The phenomenon of laboratories has existed for some years in Europe, but especially in Spain. It’s brand new in France “, explains Stéphanie Cherbonnier, director of Ofast. But a laboratory requires chemists who are able to separate cocaine from contaminated goods, such as coal, liquids, or sugar. That is why Colombian or Mexican chemists began arriving in Europe. In the period 2018-2021, 25 laboratories were discovered in Europe, including 11 in Spain, the director of Ofast informs AFP.

Seamless national and international cooperation

“Faced with inventive criminal organizations that know how to undermine control, you have to talk to your partners, intelligence sharing is important”, she insists “Cross-references of information pay off, as this dossier has shown”. To dismantle this small piece of spider web, all departments worked together, welcoming their respective leaders. “We worked really well”, “there was no police war”, welcomes the Director of SEJF, Christophe Perruaux, while Stéphanie Cherbonnier reports a “Successful coordination” in “harmony”.

Which has been “real coordination between the various jurisdictions” in Nice, with JIRS (specialized interregional jurisdiction) and at national level with Junalco, adds the Paris prosecutor, Laure Beccuau, who also insists on “the unprecedented nature of the international cooperation that has been put in place in this case with Colombia, Dubai, Spain and the US authorities ”. The former Val-de-Marne prosecutor still notes “an almost unexpected insertion, a first”, WHO “resulted in dozens of European and international requests for mutual assistance” while it is a network of drug smugglers “very high level”.

17 arrests

Since the seizure of 22 tonnes of cocaine sugar on 5 May, 17 people have been arrested, including 9 in France, in the Paris region and in the south, 7 in Spain and 1 in Dubai. On Monday and Wednesday, 6 people arrested in France were charged and remanded in custody, 3 others were released without prosecution, we learned on Thursday from a legal source.

The 7 arrested in Spain due to a European arrest warrant are Colombian nationals suspected of being chemists capable of separating cocaine from sugar. The person arrested in Dubai was arrested on the basis of an international arrest warrant. She is suspected of being the organizer of the traffic.

by Sylvie MALIGORNE

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