Boules habit blows cover of Swiss fugitive in France

A Swiss financier suspected of money laundering who was on the run in the south of France for two years has been caught playing pétanque.

Boules habit blows cover of Swiss fugitive in France
Photo: Soren Oxenhave

The 62-year-old was arrested by French police on Tuesday in Saint-Raphaël near Fréjus on the Côte d’Azur, reported French newspaper Var Matin on Thursday.

Wanted by Swiss police for drug-related money laundering of several hundred thousand francs, he was the subject of an international arrest warrant after fleeing from Switzerland.

Since May 2014 he had been passing for a homeless man in Saint-Raphaël, and even took a bed in an emergency shelter, said the paper.

But he was caught on Tuesday after police were informed that a man fitting his description played the popular French game of pétanque – or boules – each afternoon at a local recreation area in the town.

“At the beginning of the week we received information that this man was often at a boules ground in Saint-Raphaël,” a police source told news agency ATS.

“After carrying out surveillance, we were able to confirm that this was the right man and we arrested him.

He acknowledged he was the subject of a warrant,” the source said.

On Wednesday he appeared before the public prosecutor of Aix-en-Provence, which will decide whether to extradite him to Switzerland.


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French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

A French court on Tuesday ordered the partial release of a Corsican nationalist who has served 24 years in jail for the 1998 murder of a top French official.

French court orders partial release for convicted Corsican nationalist

Under the ruling, Pierre Alessandri will be allowed out of jail to work for a landscaping company in the daytime and will be granted a full conditional release in a year if he behaves well.

The relaxation of Alessandri’s conditions of detention came amid tensions between the Mediterranean island’s pro-autonomy leaders and the French state, after a fellow Corsican detained in the same case was killed in a French prison in March.

Alessandri and a third Corsican detainee were transferred from mainland France to a jail in Corsica in April after the murder of Yvan Colonna.

The Paris appeals court granted Alessandri “a probationary partial release” of 12 months from February 13, the prosecutor-general Remy Heitz said.

If he behaves well, he would then be granted “conditional release” for another ten years, he said.

Alessandri’s lawyer Eric Barbolosi hailed the ruling as a “great relief”.

“For the first time in a court of appeals, the magistrates made a decision based on the criteria necessary for a conditional release, not the particular nature of the case,” he said.

Alessandri had served enough time to be eligible for such a release by 2017, and had already petitioned to be freed three times.

But national anti-terror prosecutors objected, and an appeals court barred his release.

The country’s highest court then quashed one of these decisions, ordering the Paris appeals court to re-examine it.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after an Islamist extremist who accused him of blasphemy strangled and suffocated him in a prison in the southern town of Arles in mainland France.

He was detained in 2003 after four years on the run, and sentenced in 2007, and then again in 2011, to life in jail over the killing in 1998 of the French government prefect of Corsica, Claude Erignac.

The killing was the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Alessandri and another nationalist, Alain Ferrandi, had already been sentenced to life in jail in 2003 over the murder.

Ferrandi, who was transferred to the same Corsican jail, has also requested to be released on parole, and a decision is due on February 23rd.

Colonna’s murder sparked violent protests in Corsica.

It galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.