Wed, Oct 24, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Paris plans to tackle Corsica crime wave

ORGANIZED CRIME:After a prominent lawyer was murdered last week, French President Francois Hollande said the scale of violence on the island was ‘intolerable’

The Guardian, AJACCIO, France

The French government has announced a 10-point emergency plan to combat a wave of assassinations linked to organized crime on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

The plan follows the shooting on Tuesday last week of a prominent lawyer, Antoine Sollacaro, as he drove to work.

The 63-year-old, who was shot five times in the head at the wheel of his Porsche as he was pulling up at a gas station near the capital, Ajaccio, was the 15th person to be murdered this year on the Mediterranean island. Not one of the killings, believed to be linked to criminal gangs, has been solved.

After a meeting of prominent Cabinet ministers in Paris on Monday morning, the office of French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced a “global strategy to fight Corsica’s rampant criminality.”

“Economic and financial dealings are behind most of the murders ... particular attention will be paid to the fight against money laundering, especially in the fields of property, and including sport as well as the procedures for public contracts and urban authorizations,” Aurault said.

The 10 measures include appointing more investigating judges and setting up a special unit of the national police force to investigate and oversee criminal cases and “coordinate internal security.”

Aurault also announced tighter controls on financial and fiscal dealings on the island.

Ayrault called on Corsicans to show a “spirit of responsibility.”

“The immense majority of Corsicans are suffering in this situation, each must ask themselves where are the roots of this violence,” he said.

After Sollacaro was murdered last week, French President Francois Hollande said the scale of violence on the island was “intolerable.”

Ayrault described the problem of organized crime on Corsica as a “scourge that undermines [the island].”

Corsica has been riddled with internal violence for decades. Previously, it was linked to the nationalist movement, but in recent years it has been blamed on criminal gangs who have made fortunes from bank robberies and large-scale drug trafficking.

Historian Antoine-Marie Graziani has blamed the French state for the lawlessness, accusing Paris of washing its hands of Corsica. He also said it was wrong to describe the gangs as mafia.

“The attitude has been that the republic isn’t bothered if it’s Corsicans killing each other,” Graziani said. “They use the terms mafia and vendetta that are not just wrong, but dangerous because they allow the state to say it cannot do anything about such things, which is scandalous. Every time there’s a murder they say it is ‘intolerable.’ I have lived here for 30 years and I must have heard this 50 times. We’ve had enough of hearing the same thing.”

Graziani said Paris has to take more active control of the island to stamp out ingrained corruption, money laundering, drug dealing and the black economy.

“It will be painful, but it is the only way,” he said.

Andre Paccou, head of the island’s Human Rights League, accused successive French governments of “utter incompetence” in dealing with Corsica’s problems. He said the fact that French detectives investigating organized gangs were based in Marseille meant they were often “completely out of touch with the realities of Corsican life.”

Paccou told broadcaster France 24 the key to ending the gangs’ “reign of impunity” was to stem the flow of their money.

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