French Prison Break: Violent Scenes Are A Symptom Of Authorities' Struggle With Organised Crime


(MENAFN- The Conversation) A manhunt is underway in France after armed men held up a prison van to break out convicted criminal Mohamed Amra, nicknamed“the fly” (La mouche). They killed two offers and injured
several more in the process.

France may not be the first European country that springs to mind when organised crime is mentioned, but Amra's case, and his audacious escape in broad daylight in front of multiple witnesses, is indicative of the pressures authorities currently face in trying to keep pace with the trade in drugs and arms.

The prison break unfolded near Rouen, in the north of the country, but Amra has been indicted for crimes carried out in the southern port
city of Marseille. This is the centre of a well structured, lucrative and extremely violent drugs trade.

The organised crime structures in Marseille have a long history, but have become increasingly powerful as the socio-economic status of the city has continued to decline. The city was known as the“French connection” in the heroin smuggling route that linked producers in Turkey with consumers in the United States between 1945 and the 1970s .

This Network
was run by the Corsican mafia in France, and demonstrated a significant degree of adaptability, coordination and international reach .

Today the Corsicans have been surpassed by a new generation of “narcobanditisme” . Cannabis resin is brought in from Morocco, across to Spain, and then up to Marseille in “go fast” convoys – groups of 4x4 vehicles
travelling at high speed during the night, escorted by scout cars ahead and behind. These groups have been responsible for the upswing in deaths in Marseille, which recorded its deadliest year from gang-fuelled drug violence in 2023 .

The problem is also tied to the trafficking of small arms into France by criminal groups from Eastern Europe. Once arms make it into the European free movement area, they end up being used in France's drug trade .

To put it bluntly, without access to a range of semi-automatic military grade small arms, it would have been much more difficult to attack the prison van trans port
ing Amra. Video footage shows heavily armed men surrounding the vehicle.


Witness footage shows the armed men. A multifaceted problem

The warning signs about the flow of weapons into France have been there for some time. The assault rifles used in the 2015 attacks
in Paris came from organised crime groups in the Balkans, passing through Europe into France .

Successive French governments
have failed to tackle the issue of organised crime and the resulting violence. The dismantling of the French connection of the 1970s has some lessons for fighting today's organised crime, not least in the extensive collaboration between American, French and Turkish Police
that was needed to break the international drug Network
behind it.

The problem for law enforcement today is in fact even more pronounced. Developments in communications and financial
technologies now enable criminals to more easily direct their affairs from abroad – most notably in opaque jurisdictions like Dubai or in the North African states of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

The problem here is that governments
such as France have higher priorities when it comes to their cooperation with these states than fighting drug traffickers. Security cooperation in relation to terrorism
is seen to be more im port
ant, and perhaps for good reason. Securing lucrative energy
supply
contracts for French companies is another.

Successive governments
have also failed to act decisively on drug trafficking in France. Most of the trade is in cannabis, with France one of the largest markets in Europe . Yet the drug does not create the same moral panic and public concern as the heroin of the French connection in the 1970s.

And with Police
budgets tight, complex drugs cases are not prioritised. President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly visited Marseille and as recently as March 2024 unveiled a large anti-drug operation – which he admitted would require the mobilisation of thousands of Police
. It is difficult to see where the resources, or the staff, are going to come from.



The Conversation

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The Conversation

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