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CRIME

Taxi driver’s mother: my son’s a good boy

The mother of an illegal taxi driver charged with the 2008 kidnapping and murder of a Swedish student in Paris on Wednesday asked a court to show leniency to her "good boy".

The trial of Bruno Cholet, 55, was suspended for 24 hours only 20 minutes after it began on Tuesday when he said he was feeling unwell and was sent to hospital for tests.

With the victim's family looking on from the front row, Cholet told the court Wednesday he was feeling well enough for the trial, which is scheduled to run until September 14, to continue.

He said his bout of ill-health was probably due to heatstroke and recounted what he said was a troubled childhood with him being pushed around in foster care like a "sack of potatoes".

"My schooling took place in jail," said Cholet, whose first brush with the law occurred at the age of 12 when he stole a bicycle.

He admitted to a delinquent adolescence spent on the streets of Paris and on the French Riviera and claimed he was raped by three sailors when he was about 14.

Cholet is charged with the murder of Susanna Zetterberg, a 19-year-old student from Stockholm, who he allegedly picked up in his taxi outside a Paris nightclub in April 2008.

Zetterberg's partially burnt body was discovered in a forest near Paris the day she went missing. An autopsy showed she had been shot at least four times in the head.

Police traced the crime to Cholet, who was allegedly found with a pistol, handcuffs and other material containing Zetterberg's DNA in his possession. A plastic bag with her name written on it was also allegedly found.

Cholet, a convicted rapist and armed robber, denies any involvement and claims police fabricated evidence.

His 77-year-old mother, who has recently undergone knee surgery and his father, who has to use a walker, were not present in court. But his mother sent a letter to the judge requesting leniency which was read out in court.

"My son is a good boy, don't be too hard on him", Marie-Louise Cholet wrote. "He lets himself get swayed easily …it's a mother who is writing to you with a lot of pain."

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CRIME

French police break-up fake Bordeaux wine ring

Police investigating drug-trafficking in south west France have broken up a counterfeit Bordeaux wine ring following an eight-month investigation.

French police break-up fake Bordeaux wine ring

Prosecutors said that 100 gendarmes were involved in an operation to arrest up to 20 suspects in seven départements after the fake wine scam was discovered when fake wine labels were discovered by officers investigating a drugs ring. 

During searches, a dozen vehicles and, “a large volume of wine” were seized, they added.

They estimated that several hundred thousand bottles of Spanish wine had been passed off as being from the Médoc wine region of France.

Investigations involving a dedicated police unit revealed “a large-scale fraud organised by the owner of a vineyard in the Médoc”, police said, who obtained wine via “Spanish contacts”, bottled it at night and put fake labels on the bottles.

The fake wines were then sold “by the pallet” in several areas via “a network of official and unofficial distributors made up of companies, pensioners and self-employed people”, according to prosecutors. 

Orders amounting to several thousand bottles were sent abroad, with customers believing they were buying Bordeaux chateau wines at bargain prices, prosecutors said, when the bottles really contained “low-end wines …. from remote areas”.

Three suspects, including someone described as the ‘main instigator’ appeared before an examining magistrate on Wednesday and was charged with a variety of offences linked to fraud.

A source close to the case told AFP that the counterfeiting targeted mid-range Médoc wines, which are easier to counterfeit than the grand crus. 

“If the facts are proven, we hope that the perpetrators will be heavily condemned because these practices harm the image of Bordeaux wines and the image of all those who work well and respect the rules,” reacted the Interprofessional Council of Bordeaux Wine contacted by AFP.

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