• France's news in English

'Some bad people want to kill me, I'm not scared'

Ben McPartland · 3 Apr 2013, 17:30

Published: 03 Apr 2013 14:28 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Apr 2013 17:30 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

With five suspected gangland murders so far this year and 20 similar killings last year, it is easy to see why the Mediterranean Island of Corsica has been dubbed the ‘murder capital’ of Europe.

One of the men charged with the difficult task of governing the island and protecting the population of around 300,000 is Paul Giacobbi, head of the Corsica Executive Council and the island’s most prominent lawmaker.

Paul Giacobbi, 55, Photo:AFP

But now he too has become a target for the criminal gangs or "mafia" believed to be behind most of the 105 assassinations since 2007, including 20 last year alone.

Earlier this year, the French government took the step of placing Giacobbi, 55, under police protection, meaning whenever he sets foot on the island, two heavily-armed guards follow his every move.

“The government and police told me that some dangerous people said they could be interested in killing me,” Giacobbi told The Local.“I don’t want to know too much about it, but clearly someone credible, with the capability of doing that, has said something.”

The armed guards tasked with protecting Giacobbi are not just employed as a precaution. Corsica’s criminal gangs have demonstrated in the past they are not scared of targeting high profile figures.

In 1998, the island’s prefect at the time, Claude Erignac, was shot dead. Last year the region’s top lawyer Antoine Sollacaro, 63, and the head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for South Corsica Jacques Nacer, 59, were both gunned down in public.  

Giacobbi recently asked for the government to re-evaluate the dangers facing him, but a report came back that there was still a credible threat against his life.

The National Assembly deputy for Haute Corse insists, however, that he is not scared when he visits Corsica.

“I am not sensitive to fear, although maybe that's a handicap I have,” he said. “The guards are very professional but it makes it hard to go shopping in the supermarket with two people next to me,” said Giacobbi, who has decided to spend his summer holidays this year in India rather than in Corsica.

'I am not interested in money, you cannot corrupt me'

Nearly all of Corsica’s murders have been blamed on organised crime, with rival gangs engaged in turf wars to control everything from drug trafficking to gambling and prostitution.

A property boom in recent years has encouraged criminal gangs to bury their “dirty money” in property and land.

With hardened criminals becoming property speculators, local officials have come under intense pressure every time they are asked to grant planning permission for new homes or developments. With so much money at stake and officials living in fear, corruption is never far away.

Giacobbi believes corruption is one of the reasons why criminals want to target him specifically.

“I am not interested in money and I am not involved at all in corruption. It is impossible to corrupt me and they know that,” he said.

Giacobbi believes his decision to ask police to investigate every tender for public works programmes in Corsica – worth millions of euros each year – for any evidence of corruption, may have rubbed some dangerous people up the wrong way.

“These investigations could be damaging to a lot of bad people because it endangers a source of revenue for them,” he said.

"It's also possible that they want to kill me simply because I am the top politician in Corsica."

Over the years, Giacobbi has spoken out against those who are behind the violence in Corsica, which he says is “devastating” the island and setting a “terrible example” for the region’s young people.

He has frequently called on the French government in Paris to do more to help authorities on the island. His unwillingness to let the issue drop is another reason he believes some people might want him dead.

“I always say what I think when it comes to violence in Corsica. Violence is linked with corruption and the mafia, but I do not accept violence in a democracy," he said.

The government made a 'stupid mistake'

Story continues below…

After the shocking death of the lawyer Sollacaro, who was gunned down at a petrol station in broad daylight, France’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault vowed to take the necessary steps to halt the spiral of violence.

As part of his ten-point plan, the PM announced that funds would be given to bolster specialist investigative resources on the island, which would be geared to fighting against money laundering, especially in the real estate sector.

Although Giacobbi welcomed the government’s efforts to solve the violence, he said the measures did not go far enough.

“We need to have one man or one woman in charge of fighting crime in Corsica,” Giacobbi said. “In Marseille they decided to appoint a Prefect of police but in Corsica they said it would not be useful. This is completely stupid. The number of murders per population is four times higher in Corsica than in Marseille.

“We need to concentrate the power in the hands of a reliable and trustworthy person. It’s very important to have someone with a strong personality, who will have a natural authority over both the police and the gendarmerie.”

“This person needs to be specialized and experienced in the fight against mafia.”

Giacobbi suggests that if the government in Paris does not take the right steps in helping out their colleagues in Corsica, there may come a point when he will walk away.

"Do they want me to continue in this mess? I am a simple man. I am not a politician. I could do something else with my life. I could be a teacher," he warned.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Homeless man does a runner from France's top restaurants
Photo: Prayitno/Flickr

"A man's gotta eat," he told police, after racking up gigantic bills in some of France's plushest restaurants.

Underwater museum hopes to make a splash in Marseille
A similar underwater museum piece by Jason deCaires Taylor. Photo: julie rohloff/Flickr

Don't forget your scuba gear...

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available