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Marseille police hit by corruption ‘gangrene’

Twelve police officers in crime-ridden Marseille appeared in court Friday on suspicion of corruption, extortion and drug dealing as a prosecutor said there was "overwhelming" proof of guilt.

Marseille police hit by corruption 'gangrene'
Photo: Flickr user eisenbahner

Cannabis and money have been found in the lockers of the members of an elite detective squad and above a false ceiling in their office building in the northern district of the southern French city, prosecutor Jacques Dallest said.

The officers were arrested on Tuesday. They are suspected of having stolen drugs and cash from dealers and of holding on to cigarettes confiscated from illicit sellers.

Dallest said secretly recorded conversations in their official vehicles were "very revealing" and suggested the alleged corruption could have involved more officers than those in court on Friday.

"The feeling is that gangrene has taken hold of this service," the prosecutor said.

Friday's court hearing was to decide whether the 12 officers should face charges, be detained in custody pending further investigation or released.

If charges are brought, the Marseille affair will be the second major corruption case to hit the French police in little over a year.

Michel Neyret, the former deputy police chief of Lyon who was hailed for cutting drug crime and jewellery heists, is currently under house arrest awaiting trial on charges of accepting gifts and favours from members of the city's underworld.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault last month announced beefed up security with 205 extra police to tackle deadly gang violence in Marseille following a wave of underworld shootings.

He also announced the creation of a new security zone in the city's southern quarters.

The Mediterranean port of some 850,000 residents, long known as a hotbed of crime, has been struck by a wave of shootings with assault rifles in turf wars over the lucrative illegal drug trade.

A district mayor had urged the government to take drastic steps, even appealing for the army to be sent in, but the call was rejected quickly by senior officials.

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POLICE

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”

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