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CRIME

French police find ‘alarming’ neo-Nazi arms stash

French police discovered an arsenal of weapons including machine guns after arresting four men suspected of belonging to a neo-Nazi group in the eastern Alsace region, officials said Friday.

French police find 'alarming' neo-Nazi arms stash
The back of a French police officer (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Some 200 officers detained the men, aged 45 to 53, at their homes on Tuesday near Mulhouse after intelligence services determined the group’s members took part in a “Jew hunt” during a football match in Strasbourg, prosecutor Edwige Roux-Morizot told a press conference.

They discovered an “alarming” number of guns — 18 legal and 23 illegal — 167 magazines, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of gunpowder and materials for potentially making explosives, she said.

The bullet equivalent of “at least 120,000 cartridges” was also found, Lieutenant Colonel Yann Wanson of the local police unit said.

France has stepped up its surveillance of far-right extremists in line with an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years, with President Emmanuel Macron visiting a vandalised Jewish cemetery in Alsace in December 2019.

So far investigators have not determined if the men were planning an attack, but anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denial works were found and computer equipment is being analysed, Roux-Morizot said.

They also discovered equipment for making bullets and over €25,000 ($26,800) in cash.

The suspects have been charged with arms trafficking and face up to 10 years in prison.

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CRIME

Top French central banker in corruption probe

French prosecutors said Friday that they had opened a corruption investigation into top central banker Sylvie Goulard, who simultaneously stepped down from the Bank of France.

Top French central banker in corruption probe

The probe covers suspicions of accepting bribes, influence peddling, illegal conflicts of interest and breach of trust, the national financial prosecutor’s office said, confirming a report from daily Liberation.

Graft-fighting group Anticor triggered the probe by filing a criminal report in June, with the investigation launched in September.

In a statement, the Bank of France said Goulard – a former MEP and briefly defence minister under President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 – would be leaving her post as one of the institution’s deputy governors on December 5.

Returning to the foreign ministry?

She wished to “return to the foreign ministry” where she started her civil service career, the bank said.

A source close to Goulard told AFP that her departure had “nothing to do with the investigation”.

“Neither Sylvie Goulard nor her lawyer were informed that the investigation had been reopened,” the source said.

A previous probe in 2019 was closed the following year after no crime was found, case files seen by AFP showed.

Anticor questioned in its complaint the work Goulard performed for the California-based Berggruen Institute think-tank.

She has acknowledged accepting 10,000 euros ($10,530 at current rates) per month working as a “special adviser” to the Council for the Future of Europe, an offshoot of Berggruen, between 2013 and 2016.

Goulard’s explanation

Goulard, who was also an MEP at the time, said her work had “no relation of any kind with the business activities” of the group’s founder, German-American billionaire Nicolas Berggruen.

She said her role included “reflection, moderating groups, organizing meetings”.

Her lawyer declined to respond Friday when contacted by AFP.

The Berggruen Institute denied in 2019 that Goulard had been given a fake job, highlighting that she organised meetings in Brussels, Paris and Madrid.

Goulard has also been charged in a probe into suspected fake jobs among assistants to MEPs from the Democratic Movement, a small centrist party that supports Macron.

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