The French police force has been shaken by a corruption scandal involving Lyon's deputy police chief, nicknamed "le Superflic" for his fight against drugs, who has been arrested on suspicion of colluding with international drug barons. Liberation, the left wing Paris based paper headlined it 'le super-poulet dans le Lyonaise gril' A French cop=chicken on the grill in Lyon. (French cops are referred to as Poulet and flic and it's informal not perjorative)
Michel Neyret, 55, the bouffant-haired and charismatic Lyon detective, was arrested at home along with his wife and is being held in custody.
Michel is suspected of paying off his informants with batches of confiscated drugs; police claim that Michel then worked with the criminals to resell the products. He is being questioned about corruption, international drugs trafficking and money-laundering. Michel, however, is regarded as a hero for his success in cutting drug crime and stopping jewelery heists in the Lyon area. He appears regularly in the media to talk about Lyon's success in busting crime; he was also a script adviser on a recent feature film about Lyon gang crime. Three other senior officers were also arrested in swoops from Lyon to Grenoble and the investigation spread to Cannes on the French riviera. Others linked to organized crime were in Lyon and Cannes including a man in his 30s believed to have provided Michel with luxury cars, including a Ferrari and a Rolls Royce.
Judges working on the case said they were investigating links between the police and French organized crime as well as potentially the Italian mafia. The trafficking is said to have involved hard drugs transported from South America, linked to a Paris-region cocaine ring dismantled by police last November. Judges are investigating Swiss bank accounts allegedly used to channel profits. Michel and his lawyers contest all the allegations. Police all over France were stupefied at the arrests.
If a web of corruption is uncovered at the top of the French force, it would be a major scandal. The interior minister Claude Gueant said that if the allegations are true, it would be "immensely painful" for the French police.
The investigation comes just as Nicolas Sarkozy's inner-circle has been hit by a series of political party-funding corruption investigations - including contributions from the L'Oreal heiress Lilianne Bettencourt who a judge has ruled to be suffering dementia and Alzheimers and incapable of making decisions - putting the country in a state of soul-searching about sleaze.
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