French hopeful in Texas beard championships is suspected ‘drugs kingpin’

A Breton man on his way to the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Texas was arrested by American anti-drugs police on suspicion of being a dark web drug baron. 

French hopeful in Texas beard championships is suspected 'drugs kingpin'
Photo: Intagram/Vallerius

With a long red beard, 38-year-old Gal Vallerius was stopped by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Atlanta as he travelled to Texas for the facial hair world championships.

The French-Israeli is accused of being a drug's kingpin and administrator of the dark web marketplace Dream Market, acting under an online pseudonym “OxyMonster”. 

Dream Market has more than 94,000 adverts and posts offering users the opportunity to buy heroin, cocaine and LSD.

The United States police spent months analysing the posts of “OxyMonster” in an effort to catch the user, and Mr Vallerius’ posts on social media were found to use exactly the same linguistic patterns. 

When the police opened up the Frenchman’s tablet, they found all the administrator passwords for Dream Market. 

Since Mr Vallerius’ arrest on 31 August, international judiciary police officers in Rennes have raided one of his homes in Plusquellec, in the Côtes-d'Armor region of north west France and found no evidence. 

However, when they raided a second property owned by the Breton man, officers found 50,000 euros in cash and drugs. 

According to the Guardian newspaper Vallerius, who was visiting the US for the first time, had registered for the “full beard 30.1-45cm” category at the championships.

This year’s event had 738 competitors from 33 countries.


France’s mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo

A black panther rescued from rooftops near the northern city of Lille last week has been stolen from the zoo where it was taken after capture, officials said.

France's mystery rooftop panther stolen from zoo
Photo: AFP/ Sapeurs Pompiers du Nord

The feline was seized overnight from the zoo in Maubeuge near the Belgian border, the city's mayor, Arnaud Decagny, told AFP on Tuesday.

“This animal was the only target,” Decagny said, adding that “considerable efforts” were made to force locks and avoid security systems.

Zoo personnel are worried about the young panther's health, “which is rather delicate because he lacks strength,” the mayor added, saying the animal was just a few months old and weighed between 25 and 30kg.

The panther after its capture. Photo League Protectrice des Animaux de la Nord de France/AFP

The panther was going to be transferred to a centre specialised in rehabilitating wild animals that had been domesticated.

Firefighters caught the cat last Wednesday as it roamed rooftops in Armentieres after escaping through the window of a private apartment believed to have been its home.

The panther's owner is thought to have escaped through the same window, for fear of being charged with illegally harbouring a wild animal.

Police have not located the fugitive owner, who could face charges of endangering the public, which is punishable by up to a year in prison and €15,000 in fines, Decagny said.