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CRIME

The story of the homeless man who disappeared with half a million euros from a Paris airport

How did a homeless man who spent his time living out of bins at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris somehow steal with half a million euros of cash and then disappear without a trace?

The story of the homeless man who disappeared with half a million euros from a Paris airport
AFP
It's a crime story that has grabbed the headlines in France and could easily be the plot of a movie.
 
A homeless man who slept rough in Charles de Gaulle airport Paris and who survived by rifling through the bins and eating the scraps thrown away by jet setters has disappeared along with half a million euros.
 
He stumbled across the money on December 8th when he pushed open a door of an office belonging to Loomis, a company which handles cash deliveries to and from businesses. 
 
The door of the offices at terminal 2F is normally locked tight to protect the large amounts of cash stored there, and needs a security code to be opened, but it was apparently left unlocked.
 
Some 32 seconds later the thief emerged from behind the door carrying two sacks of cash and disappeared into the sunset, or at least out of range of the airport's many CCTV cameras.
 
A source close to the investigation told Le Parisien newspaper: “This is indeed extremely fortuitous. This homeless man benefited from a combination of circumstances to land himself a huge Christmas present.”
 
A month has passed since then and the thief looks no closer to being tracked down, with the case becoming increasingly embarrassing for Loomis and detectives.
 
At first it was believed he had escaped with the not-so paltry sum of 300,000, but after a proper count it's been revealed that the bags of cash he lifted contained €490,000. That's what a source close to the investigation told Le Parisien newspaper.
 
To make matters worse the sacks of money were not booby-trapped with indelible ink, as most often are and did not contain any GPS tracker.
 
“It seems the money stolen that day came from a fresh collection and therefore these notes are untracable,” the police source told Le Parisien.
 
“And as for serial numbers on the notes, the only bank notes whose numbers are listed are those that come from the Bank of France.”
 
In other words it appears the thief can freely spend his loot without fear of detection.
 
On the plus side for police they claim to have at least identified the 40-year-old fugitive, who was wearing a blck North Face jacket and blue tracksuit bottoms with white stripes.
 
“He is a foreigner, from North Africa who spent most of his time at the airport,” the police source said.
 
“It's possible that he has passed into Belgium or any other European country, where he may have been able to take a plane back home to rebuild his life in the sun,” said the police source.
 
It's quite possible that we'll never see or hear of the airport thief ever again nor the half-a-million euros.

ENVIRONMENT

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

French prosecutors said on Friday they would investigate the appearance of vast quantities of tiny toxic plastic pellets along the Atlantic coast that endanger marine life and the human food chain.

France to probe microplastic pellet pollution on Atlantic beaches

The criminal probe will follow several legal complaints about the pellet invasion lodged by local authorities and the central government in Paris, Camille Miansoni, chief prosecutor in the western city of Brest, told AFP.

The microscopic pellets, called nurdles, are the building blocks for most of the world’s plastic production, from car bumpers to salad bowls.

They are usually packed in bags of 25 kilogrammes for transport, each containing around a million nurdles, which are sometimes called “Mermaids’ Tears”. 

But they can easily spill into the ocean when a cargo ship sinks or loses a container. Environmentalists also suspect that factories sometimes dump them into the sea.

Fish and birds often mistake them for food and, once ingested, the tiny granules can make their way into the diet of humans.

Experts told AFP the nurdles found along the coast of Brittany may have come from a plastic industry container that fell into the sea.

“We can’t rule out a single source for the industrial pellets,” said Nicolas Tamic at the CEDRE pollution research body in Brest.

On Tuesday, the French government filed a legal complaint against persons unknown and called for a international search for any containers that may have been lost at sea.

Local authorities have followed suit, and the environmental crime branch of the Brest prosecutor’s office will lead the investigation.

Last weekend, around 100 people took part in a clean-up campaign on a microplastic-infested beach in Pornic in Brittany to collect pellets and draw attention to the problem. 

“We think they’ve come from a container that may have been out there for a while and opened up because of recent storms,” said Lionel Cheylus, spokesman for the NGO Surfrider Foundation.

“Our action is symbolic. It’s not like we’re going to pick up an entire container load,” said Annick, a pensioner, as she filled her yoghurt pot with nurdles. 

French politicians have taken note. Joel Guerriau, a senator from the region, has called for a “clear international designation” of  the pellets as being harmful.

Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Bechu labelled the nurdles “an environmental nightmare”, telling AFP the government would support associations fighting pellet pollution.

Ingesting plastic is harmful for human health but nurdles, in addition, attract chemical contaminants found in the sea to their surface, making them even more toxic.

Measuring less than five millimetres in size, they are not always readily visible except when they wash up in unusually huge quantities, as has been the case since late November along the northwestern French coast.

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