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DRUGS

Drugs: French seizures of khat and cannabis soar

Cannabis seizures in France soared last year according to an end-of-year report by French customs officials. Marijuana was not the only illegal substance that was confiscated in huge amounts in 2013. An incredible 44 tomes of the khat was impounded at Channel ports.

Drugs: French seizures of khat and cannabis soar
French customs officers had a busy year in 2013 seizing 86 tonnes of cannabis and 49 tonnes of khat. Photo: Pierre Clatot/AFP

French customs officials have had a busy 2013 it seems if the amount of drugs they seized is anything to go by.

The country’s finance minister Pierre Moscovici revealed this week that authorities had confiscated an incredible 86 tonnes of cannabis in 2013. To put that in perspective, that’s more than three times as much as the 24 tonnes seized in 2012.

French customs officials told The Local the huge rise in the amount cannabis confiscated was mainly down to two huge seizures in the Mediterranean last year, including one in September when the French Navy impounded a boat containing 20 tonnes of the drug worth around €50 million (see below).

French Navy in record €50 million cannabis seizure

And it was not only marijuana that French customs officials were impounding by the truck load. In 2013 officers pulled in 7.2 tonnes of cocaine compared with 4.6 tonnes the previous year.

Moscovici was naturally proud of the efforts of his staff, congratulating them on their “exceptional results”.

Other items confiscated by authorities included:

  • 430 tonnes of tobacco compared to around 371 tonnes in 2012
  • 823 guns were confiscated in 2013, more than double the 401 impounded in 2012
  • 7.6 million counterfeit items were seized in 2013, again well up on the 4.6 million in 2012

But perhaps the most unbelievable haul of illegal substances last year was the 49 tonnes of khat, a hallucinogenic substance derived from a plant that originates in the Horn of Africa and southern Arabia. In 2012 a mere 4.5 tonnes of the plant, which is prohibited to varying degrees in 17 countries in the EU, was confiscated.

Leaves of the khat shrub are chewed and held in the cheek, like chewing tobacco, which releases stimulant chemicals that can affect the brain for up to 24 hours. It can make the user feel euphoric and more alert before the effects wear off and leave them "in a depressed mood."

A spokesperson for French customs told The Local that the ten-fold rise in the amount of khat seized was due in large part to the Netherlands moving to ban the substance in January 2013.

Since then a trafficking network was set up to transport the drugs from the UK to the Netherlands via France. Most of the 49 tonnes of khat were seized at the Channel ports of Calais and Dunkirk.

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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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