By Agence France Presse
What police called an “important network” of drug trafficking between Belgium and France was dismantled Tuesday and Wednesday, with 25 people being arrested for questioning in the two countries and several of them being caught red-handed.
“This trafficking seems unhappily to involve cyclists at different levels, both amateurs and semi-professionals,” confirmed Denis Chausserie-Laprée, a vice procurator with the Bordeaux branch of the specialist interregional judiciary (JIRS), at a press conference held with the police investigators. The magistrate refused to give the identities of the people being questioned.
The Belgian federal police however released a communiqué indicating that “the key person[of the network] is a 62-year-old Belgian … who with his son had put together a clandestine business.” This man is actually being held in France, according to the Belgian police.
The media were shown 93 flasks each containing 12 milliliters of “pot belge” (which is a mixture of doping products, including amphetamines and heroin), as well as 10,350 euros (about $13,500) in cash, all seized Tuesday near Cahors in central France. The JIRS were alerted last autumn after the inquiry revealed the size of the drug trafficking network, and a joint judicial and police operation was put in place between Belgium, from where the products came, and different locations in France.
The inquiry began last April as the result of a tip-off to the police by the French cycling federation after a rider tested positive. This rider agreed to give “some information” that initially led to a line of inquiries being started in Cahors. In September, the gendarmerie put together a team of 10 detectives totally dedicated to the case.
“The majority of the consumers were obliged to undertake acts of re-selling to satisfy their dependence or their passion for cycling,” the magistrate explained. He estimated that the trafficking had been going on for “several months, even years.”
The police operation on Tuesday involved the simultaneous arrest of six people in Belgium, six in the Cahors region, seven in the Marseille area, three in the Pyrenees and one in Bordeaux. Several were caught red-handed on the autoroute ramps of north and south Cahors.
Two separate arrests were made Wednesday at Cahors and Marseille. In the latter city and at Bordeaux, the police seized 30 empty flasks of EPO, human growth hormone and other banned products. Some 80 officers were involved in the sting operation.
After the police questioning, the suspected traffickers will go before Bordeaux judge Cécile Ramonatxo, who is in charge of the affair.