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DRUGS

Drug racket laundered €100 million: minister

A Franco-Swiss drugs and money laundering racket smashed last week had legitimized at least €100 million, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday.

Drug racket laundered €100 million: minister
Photo: Andrea Kratzenberg

"Several tonnes of cannabis have been recovered and they account for about €40 million," Valls told reporters, referring to busts last week that saw 17 parallel arrests with a deputy mayor of a Paris district, Florence Lamblin of the Green Party, among those charged in the case.

Valls said the laundering scheme was "linked to the drug smuggling racket and was easily estimated at €100 million (121 million francs $129 million)."

The main Swiss suspect in the case has been arrested and his brother, a wealth manager with the HSBC Geneva bank, has also been detained.

A raid on the Geneva home of one of the brothers led to the discovery of €800,000 in cash, and 160 watches and jewels worth an estimated €2 million in a hidden safe, Swiss newspaper Le Temps had reported.

The main suspect's lawyer Stickel-Circurel told Le Temps Monday that her client had knowingly helped tax evaders, "but he had no idea where the money came from."

A third person, a woman working for the main suspect, was also arrested along with the two brothers last Wednesday. She has been set free but must remain available for questioning.

Those arrested and released were freed on bail of between €80,000 and €1 million, a judiciary source said.

A source close to the case said police had found several million euros in cash and goods during the searches of suspects homes and safe deposit in both countries.

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DRUGS

French minister calls for Eurovision winner to be disqualified if singer fails drug test

France's Europe minister on Monday called for "total transparency" over speculation that one of Italy's victorious Eurovision contestants used cocaine during the song contest, saying it should be grounds for disqualification if confirmed.

French minister calls for Eurovision winner to be disqualified if singer fails drug test
France's entry, Barbara Pravi, said she didn't care whether Måneskin had used drugs or not. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Damiano David, the outlandish vocalist for Italian rockers Måneskin, has agreed to take a drug test after video footage appeared to show him snorting something from a table backstage during Saturday’s contest.

“I think there needs to be no doubt here, and total transparency,” Europe Minister Clement Beaune, who attended the show in Rotterdam, told RMC radio. “If there is a problem, there are penalties… Provisions are made for sanctioning measures, including potential disqualification in case of problems.” 

French hopes had been riding high on singer Barbara Pravi, who was a bookmakers’ favourite to end France’s 44-year Eurovision drought with her
moody ballad “Voila.”

But she was edged out at the last minute by a surge in public votes for Måneskin, with a final tally of 524 to Pravi’s 499.

“I don’t want to be a sore loser,” Beaune said, but “in terms of image, we can’t let people think that such competitions can result in such behaviour.”

The president of France’s public broadcasting group, however, said Monday that France would not contest its second-place finish, no matter the speculation over David’s backstage antics.

“France has absolutely no intention to lodge an appeal,” France Televisions chief Delphine Ernotte told the Parisien newspaper. “The vote was quite clearly in Italy’s favour — it didn’t steal its
victory and that’s what matters,” she said.

Pravi herself said she was not interested in the speculation.

“What’s true is that they were chosen by both the public and the jury. Afterwards, if they use drugs or they put their underwear on backwards or whatever… it’s not my problem,” she told France 2 television on Sunday.

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