World Bulletin/News Desk
A police unit in Marseille assigned to tackle spiralling gang violence, drug trafficking and a murder rate that have shocked France is deeply corrupt, the city prosecutor said on Friday.
"The feeling is of a gangrene that has struck, that has touched this service," prosecutor Jacques Dallest said of the 60-member brigade policing the crime-ridden and heavily immigrant northern areas of France's second largest city.
During a search this week, inspectors from France's police watchdog division found hashish, 800 euros ($1,000) in cash, plus marijuana and jewels, hidden in false ceilings in the offices, lockers, and homes of suspects working in the northern police brigade.
"I consider it an organised system of theft, racketeering, and drug trafficking," Dallest told a news conference after 12 of 13 officers arrested this week were taken before judges. He said further arrests were likely.
Later on Friday, investigating magistrates jailed four of the 12 officers and put them under a formal judicial inquiry - a process that usually, but not always, leads to trial under French law.
The rampant crime in Marseille, as well as a similar scandal in France's third largest city, Lyon, have posed a huge headache for Socialist President Francois Hollande.
He is under pressure to tackle the breakdown in law and order in Marseille's northern parts, which have been subject to stepped-up policing since 2008, but has so far rejected political calls for the army to intervene.
Hollande, whose approval ratings have tumbled since his May election, is caught between campaign promises to help youth living in dangerous housing project communities at the periphery of ma n y French cities, and the need to be seen to be tough on crime.
The number of murders in Marseille had reached 12 as of Aug. 30, just short of last year's total of 13. The violence in the historic port's northern district takes place far from the plush coastal neighbourhoods on the Mediterranean.
Dallest described the alleged racket as "pretty much a whole catalogue of the most unacceptable schemes" that include taking drugs, cigarettes and cash from dealers and others, and conducting illegal searches of crime suspects, sharing the seized drugs and money between officers.
"There is no place for those who tarnish the police uniform," Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters.
The affair adds to a separate corruption investigation in Lyon, where the deputy police chief is accused of selling drugs.
The Marseille suspects face a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in Bosnia, represents Bosniaks (Muslims) in the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Three people including a NATO representative have been killed in a missile facility explosion
At least 2 people have been injured in an attack in Nigeria
With many moments highlighting the four day convention, the most emotional of all was the speech of Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq
French PM Valls has said called for imams to be trained in France and that a ban should be in place for the foreign funding of mosques
Demonstrators decry deadly coup attempt in Turkey; demand Gulen's extradition
Boris Johnson insists relations are warm after French foreign minister had accused him earlier of having ‘lied a lot’
A draft resolution calling on all parties to cease all violence with the deployment of a UN police force in Burundi will be voted on today
Hillary Clinton has accepted the nomination for the Democrats saying that she would be 'president for Democrats, Republicans and independents'
German Chancellor says Ankara should prosecute coup plotters with all means and possibilities within rule of law
Dozen killings in last 2 months have largely targeted ruling African National Congress members
Gulen's terrorist organization FETO has extended networks in western Balkans since 1990s
With latest payment, company's financial assistance from European Commission totals more than €10 million
Iraqi authorities typically blame such attacks on ISIL group