Dordogne drug raids linked to Premier League

Cocaine-stained cash was commission from football deals, says arrested driver

For the inhabitants of two sleepy Dordogne villages, the latest English arrivals must have seemed much like the other members of the Anglo-Saxon influx who have flooded into this most Anglicised corner of France for a slice of the Gallic good life.

Only when officers from France's elite judicial police raided the homes of three unobtrusive Britons in Augignac and Champniers et Reilhac, two villages barely 10 miles apart, residents realised they had been living side by side with the alleged ringleaders of an international drug-smuggling network with possible links to Premier League football transfers.

The French authorities confirmed yesterday that they were in the process of dismantling a suspected cocaine and money-laundering operation run by alleged British gangsters who had used the quiet image of ex-pats seeking the simple pleasures of rural France as a cover for their criminal activities.

Detectives involved in the joint investigation with British counterparts in the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) have arrested 10 Britons across France and believe the Dordogne served as the hub of a sophisticated smuggling network used to transport large quantities of money and cocaine from Spain through France and on to the United Kingdom.

The police operation began last May when customs officers stopped a Mercedes car with British number-plates on the motorway between Narbonne and Toulouse in south-west France. In a secret compartment behind the passenger seats police found €540,000 (£484,000) in used notes.

The 35-year-old British driver, named only as Stephen C, claimed the cash was the commission on transfer deals in the notoriously unregulated market for players in the English Premiership. Forensic tests found traces of cocaine on the cash. Police said cocaine and linked cash were being delivered to Britain from boats from Africa. Guy Sapata, the officer leading the investigation, said: "Those arrested have explained the cash as being commissions for acting in player transfers. Unfortunately, organised crime networks are involved in all kinds of activities, meaning there could be an overlap between drugs, money-laundering and big money transfers."

Interviews with Stephen C, who admitted 20 similar trips across Europe to deliver money to the UK, led detectives to focus on Augignac and Champniers-et-Reilhac, near Perigueux. Attracted by distinctive honey-coloured stone buildings and dramatic landscape, the inward flow of "les Anglo Saxons" has been so widespread that the region is referred to as "Dordogneshire".

The targets of the Anglo-French inquiry were found to be leading quietly ostentatious lives, allegedly laundering the proceeds of their drugs network by buying chateaux and villas across the Dordogne. In the Champniers-et-Reilhac home of the parents of one of the alleged ringleaders, named as Mark B, officers found a sky-blue Aston Martin DB9 and a Mercedes, also with a hidden compartment.

Mark B was arrested on 14 February in London on a European warrant as he checked into a private clinic. Two more suspects, named as Michael K and Sophie S, were arrested on 24 February in Augignac. Police found documents showing they owned a €175,000 villa and other property in France worth €325,000.

A French officer added: "The cars were typical of the kind of flash, luxury goods these suspects have been using. They had stacks of money and were regularly investing in land and luxury properties. They are also believed to have been investing in Cyprus. All those arrested are being questioned pending court appearances."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before