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DRUGS

Drug racket laundered €100 million: minister

A Franco-Swiss drugs and money laundering racket smashed last week had legitimized at least €100 million, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday.

Drug racket laundered €100 million: minister
Photo: Andrea Kratzenberg

"Several tonnes of cannabis have been recovered and they account for about €40 million," Valls told reporters, referring to busts last week that saw 17 parallel arrests with a deputy mayor of a Paris district, Florence Lamblin of the Green Party, among those charged in the case.

Valls said the laundering scheme was "linked to the drug smuggling racket and was easily estimated at €100 million (121 million francs $129 million)."

The main Swiss suspect in the case has been arrested and his brother, a wealth manager with the HSBC Geneva bank, has also been detained.

A raid on the Geneva home of one of the brothers led to the discovery of €800,000 in cash, and 160 watches and jewels worth an estimated €2 million in a hidden safe, Swiss newspaper Le Temps had reported.

The main suspect's lawyer Stickel-Circurel told Le Temps Monday that her client had knowingly helped tax evaders, "but he had no idea where the money came from."

A third person, a woman working for the main suspect, was also arrested along with the two brothers last Wednesday. She has been set free but must remain available for questioning.

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 deposit in both countries.

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DRUGS

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
Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV / AFP

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. 

 

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