Swiss and French cops swoop over drug money

French police have arrested 17 people, including the deputy mayor of a Paris district, in an operation with Swiss police into the suspected laundering of about €40 million (48 million francs, $52 million) of drug money.

Prosecutors in Geneva said on Saturday that Swiss police had arrested three people, including two brothers of Moroccan origin, in connection with the same ring.

A raid on the Geneva home of one of the brothers led to the discovery of €800,000 in cash, and 160 watches and high-value jewels with an estimated value of €2 million in a hidden safe, said Le Temps newspaper.

The arrests came after French authorities arrested 17 people on Friday and Saturday as part of the investigation.

Florence Lamblin of France's Green Party, a deputy mayor of a Paris district, was among those charged in the case.

She is being investigated over "organized money-laundering and association with criminals," a judicial source said.

While she remains at liberty on bail, seven of the 17 were held in custody, those suspected of trafficking in drugs or dealing in drug money.

The arrests came after an investigation that was launched in February into the smuggling of tonnes of cannabis from Morocco to the Paris region via Spain.

Lamblin resigned on Saturday from her post but colleagues said she had denied any involvement.

Her lawyer Jerome Boursican told AFP she had held €350,000 from a family legacy in a Swiss account.

A person she trusted had put her in touch with someone who repatriated the money to France, only for her to find herself caught up in the investigation, he said.

At most, he said, she was guilty of not having declared the money to the tax authorities, he added.

"She told me by SMS that she had done absolutely nothing wrong," Green Party member Yves Contassot said.

A police source said it was the biggest case of its kind to have been cracked by the French police.

Those arrested and released were freed on bail of between €80,000 and €1 million, a judiciary source said.

A source close to the case said police had found several million euros in cash and goods during the searches of suspects homes and safe deposits in both countries.

Swiss press reports said the brothers in custody were suspected of having laundered the cash via a Geneva-based finance company and with the possibly unwitting participation of French tax evaders.

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Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial

Switzerland’s National Council has approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use. If it is to be legalised however, the government says it must be organic and grown locally.

Switzerland green lights recreational marijuana trial

The study, which was approved by the National Council on Tuesday, hopes to find out more about the effects that a controlled legalisation of the drug would have in Switzerland. 

The decision to embark upon the trial was to be made in March but was delated due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study wants to understand how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation are also set to be studied. 

“The models must be tested before starting the debate on whether or not to liberalise cannabis,” said Pierre-Yves Maillard (Social Democrats), a spokesperson for the responsible committee. 

Only people who currently use cannabis – and can prove it – will be allowed to participate. Proof will be determined through a hair sample. 

‘Organic and Swiss’

Although legalisation is not a foregone conclusion, the National Council added that if cannabis was to be legalised it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and must be organic. 

Minister of Health Alain Berset said that a legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”, Berset said. 

200,000 cannabis users in Switzerland

An estimated 200,000 people smoke cannabis products in Switzerland. Those in favour of the new trial argue that this shows the war on drugs has failed – and that legalisation will 

Since 2011, the sale of cannabis products containing up to one percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the ingredient that makes users high – has been legal in Switzerland.

Regular strength cannabis and other associated products such as hashish are also illegal, although small amounts (less than ten grams) are decriminalised and will only attract a 100 franc on-the-spot fine. 

A poll by the World Health Organisation showed that more teenagers smoked in Switzerland than in any other European country, with 27 percent of 15 year olds having smoked at least once. 

The use of cannabis for medical purposes is also heavily restricted in Switzerland, with only one product – CBD oil – legally available for sale.