Police in France have arrested a man and a woman as they were heading home from a family trip to Disneyland Paris with a trunk full of teddy bears and heroin. The couple was arrested as they arrived home in the northwestern French town of Quimper, in the Brittany region.
Officers who searched the vehicle found nearly two kilos of cocaine and 10 kilos of heroin, which was divided into 500-gram packages and hidden under a teddy bear and two plush boa constrictors, reported 20 Minutes, a French news program. In a statement released Tuesday, police said that they had been monitoring the man for over a year, describing him as an "extremely cautious" individual, who moves frequently in order to evade police surveillance.
Police said the couple had been "brought into police custody, charged and jailed."
Local daily Le Télégramme, which first reported the arrest on July 30, said that the couple had spent nearly 200,000 euros ($218,000) on the drugs, which have an estimated street value of around 800,000 euros ($873,000). Police caught up with the couple after they observed "unusual" behavior on a family trip to Disneyland Paris. Once in Paris, the couple went their separate ways, with the mother spending time in Disneyland with her two children, while the father went to an undisclosed location in the French capital to purchase the drugs.
The couple then drove back to the northwestern town of Quimper in a two-car convoy, with the mother and children in the first vehicle and the father in the second car, loaded up with drugs and toys. Police suspect the man of being the "main instigator" behind an important drug trafficking network in the northwestern department of Finistère, in the region of Brittany. According to Le Télégramme, the heroin would have "flooded" the department if it hadn't been seized by the police.
When contacted by VICE News, the Quimper court that is handling the investigation said it was unable to comment in time for publication. While heroin is far from being the drug of choice for drug consumers in France, a 2015 report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found that heroin was the most common opioid in Europe, and also the most addictive. Despite a drop in the demand for heroin-related treatment, heroin remains Europe's most lethal drug, causing the lion's share of fatal overdoses.
The most common form of heroin — brown heroin — arrives in Europe from Afghanistan, while the less common form — white heroin — has historically been produced in Southeast Asia. Most of the heroin imported into Europe travels along the "Balkan route" — from Afghanistan to the Balkans, via Turkey — but drug agencies have also noticed the development of the "southern route," which stretches from Iran and Pakistan via Africa or the Arab Peninsula. Increasingly, opium originating from Afghanistan is being transformed in European laboratories.
According to the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), the "multiplication of micro-networks smuggling in heroin from the Netherlands and Belgium" has made heroin more available in France in the last ten years. Heroin users often double up as dealers, which explains why the drug has become prevalent rural areas and penetrated the market there.
According to the OFDT's statistics for 1997-2010, Brittany has one of the highest levels of heroin consumption of all French regions and one of the lowest rates of "hard drug-related" arrests. Observers have labeled Wednesday's bust a "record" seizure for the Finistère department.
By Pierre-Louis Caron - Vice/August 8, 2015
Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.