Saudi royals ‘bar’ French policewomen from beach

The storm around the Riviera beach "privatized" for the Saudi royals took a new twist on Tuesday when it emerged the Middle Eastern visitors had asked French police not to send any female officers to guard the beach.

Saudi royals 'bar' French policewomen from beach
French police officers stand guard as a car arrives at the villa of the Saudi king in Vallauris. Photo: AFP

First the Saudi royals angered the locals by commandeering a public beach all for themselves, and now they have infuriated local police by requesting that no female police officers are to be stationed on the now infamous Mirandole beach.

The claims, which first emerged in the magazine Marianne on Tuesday, were confirmed to The Local by David Michaux, a representative from the UNSA police union.

French officials defend handing beach to Saudis
(The Mirandole beach on the French Riviera. Photo: AFP)

“The French police are there to do a job, not to be the victim of discrimination,” Michaux told The Local.

According to the union rep, a female officer from the police force was asked by an emissary of the Saudi royals to leave the site on Saturday evening because she was able to see male members of King Salman’s entourage on the beach.

“The officer didn’t appreciate it at all. She’s there to do her job,” said Michaux.

Then on Sunday when a police CRS unit turned up to take over the watch, another female member of the team was asked to stand away from the house so she could not see any Saudi men enjoying their holiday.


“They made her understand she couldn’t be in view of the villa,” the union rep added. “We don’t understand. The police are there to protect the people. We are not there to watch people bathing or whatever they do,” said Michaux.            

Another police union representative Sylvain Martinache claimed the Saudis had not actually offered an explanation for why they didn’t want female police officers stationed at the beach.

“Is it because the king and his guests don’t want to see women guarding them, or is it because they want to bathe out of view of any women,” Martinache asked the 20 Minutes newspaper.

“It’s quite shocking. But it’s diplomacy. There are around 1,000 people in this villa every evening. It’s great for the local economy,” he added.

Riviera beach locked down for Saudi royals

It is understood the Ministry of the Interior got involved to try to prevent any dispute and from now on, until they leave the villa in mid-August, the Saudis will get their wish and women police officers will only be stationed at points where they cannot see the beach.

The storm about the beach kicked off earlier this month when it emerged that the Saudis had barred the public from the beach before the king had even arrived.

Over 140,000 people have since signed an open letter to France's leaders, demanding that the small beach stay open, but it has come to nothing.

Francois-Xavier Lauch, director of the office of the Alpes-Maritimes prefecture, told The Local that the closing of the beach was nothing more than a question of security.

“This move is consistent with the visit of a head of state and it would be the same if it was President Hollande visiting or Barack Obama,” he said last week.

(The Saudi king's impressive villa along the Mediterranean coast. Photo: AFP)

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French firm strikes Saudi weapons deal despite Yemen pressure

Saudi Arabia's state arms producer and a French government-majority firm signed an agreement Sunday on a joint venture to boost the kingdom's navy, amid calls to halt weapons sales to Riyadh over it role in Yemen.

French firm strikes Saudi weapons deal despite Yemen pressure
Saudi hovercraft participate in last year's "Gulf Shield 1" military drills. Photo: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP

The memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) and France's Naval Group is aimed at providing the oil-rich Gulf state's navy with “state-of-the-art systems”, a statement said.  

“Through design, construction, and maintenance activities, the joint venture will contribute significantly to further enhancing the capabilities and readiness of our Royal Saudi Naval Forces,” SAMI boss Andreas Schwer said.

A spokeswoman for Naval Group — which is owned by the French state and French multinational giant Thales — refused to give any more details.    

French lawmakers and rights groups have repeatedly called on France's government to suspend all arms deals to Riyadh because of the war in Yemen, where some 10,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015.  

Riyadh is battling on the side of the internationally recognised government against Iran-aligned Huthi rebels, in a conflict that has seen all sides accused of potential war crimes. 

The US House of Representatives this week voted overwhelmingly to end American involvement in Saudi Arabia's war effort in neighbouring Yemen, dealing a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his alliance with the kingdom.

France, one of the world's biggest arms exporters, has sold equipment to Riyadh and fellow coalition member the UAE — notably Caesar artillery guns and ammunition, sniper rifles and armoured vehicles.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia has been one of the world's top arms buyers for the past several years.

But in 2017, the kingdom's Public Investment Fund set up SAMI to manufacture arms locally with the fund expecting it to become one of the world's top 25 defence companies by 2030.

Naval Group — which was previously called DCNS — has been embroiled in a long-running graft scandal over the 2002 sale of two Scorpene submarines to Malaysia for $1.2 billion. 

The submarine maker is alleged to have paid more than 114 million euros ($128 million) in kickbacks to a shell company linked to a close associate of ousted Malaysian leader Najib Razak. 

A French investigation launched in 2010 has already led to four French executives involved in the deal being charged. They all deny wrongdoing.