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.
Following three-day trial, ten convicts are executed Saturday morning by firing squad
Thousands are reportedly driven from their homes amid violent land disputes between rival clans in Kenya’s Rift Valley
Alpine nation aimed to send financial aid to Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia Herzogovina to help them deal with the ballooning migrant crises on their territories
Suspected cases also reported in Bakul, Dunmagari and Gallari states, according to government statement
As migrant crisis deepens European leaders to hold special meeting to find concrete steps
Ceasefire aimed at ending a brutal civil war in South Sudan came into effect on Saturday evening, hours after fresh clashes between government forces and rebels
Far-right protesters have targeted migrants and their accommodation with arson attacks, violent demonstrations and assaults
After a February ceasefire collapsed as a result of clashes, European leaders have backed a complete ceasefire with a summit to be held in coming weeks with Ukraine
A Ukrainian who has been held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed with help from Russia
Oil-producing Libya has turned into a major transit route for refugees fleeing conflict and poverty to make it to Europe.
Environmentalists have pointed the finger accusing Obama of hypocrisy who has stressed the need for action on climate change and has allowed for the drilling to continue.
Protesters say mass graves have been found in Muslim-dominated areas in Kenya, while bodies have been discovered in rivers and forests
South Sudanese President has ordered all government to troops to cease fighting with a 72 hr deadline that will take effect on Saturday evening.
A consortium with 162 giant US companies will develop electronics, sensors that flex and stretch into clothing or skins of ships and jets
Kerry reiterated his government's call for Iran to release two other Americans as well
AU and Khartoum enjoy good relations as African leaders have supported Sudan's president in his battle against ICC