US$1.75bn drug bust made
A three-nation investigation led to one of the biggest seizures of synthetic drugs in Europe, a haul of products to create ecstasy pills with a street value of 1.3 billion euros (US$1.75 billion), the prosecutors’ office said on Friday. After 30 raids in Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland, 11 people were under arrest charged with possession, production and trading in drugs as part of a criminal gang, it said. “It is the biggest such bust ever in Belgium and one of the largest in Europe,” Federal Prosecutors’ Office spokeswoman Wenke Roggen said. Products seized included about 1,000kg of MDMA and 18.5 tonnes of ecstasy precursor safrole, Roggen said. The criminal organization was made up of people with Belgian, Polish and Turkish nationality, Roggen said. Most of the products were discovered in a suburban Brussels garage and in southern farmland around the city of Chimay, where men in biohazard suits were still working on the cleanup operation on Friday.
‘Little Mermaid’ celebrated
Bikini-clad women have jumped into Copenhagen harbor as part of the 100-year anniversary celebration of the landmark Little Mermaid statue — the city’s top tourist attraction. The bronze statue, which draws at least 1 million visitors every year, was created as a tribute to fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. The author penned a story about a sea king’s daughter who fell in love with a prince, but had to wait 300 years before she could turn from mermaid into human. The statue’s international fame grew after its head was stolen in 1963. Since then, it has been vandalized, exploded and repeatedly repaired.
Crashed gondolier on drugs
A Venice gondolier whose boat collided with a vaporetto waterbus, leaving a German tourist dead and his daughter injured, was under the influence of drugs, media reports said on Friday. A preliminary inquiry found that gondolier Stefano Pizzaggia had consumed cocaine and marijuana, said the reports, citing police sources. He risks charges of manslaughter. The accident happened on Saturday last week on Venice’s Grand Canal, near the city’s famous Rialto Bridge as the public transport waterbus maneuvered toward a stop. The 50-year-old German man, identified as a criminal law professor from Munich, his wife and three children and the gondolier all fell into the water in the accident. Other gondoliers rushed to the rescue, taking them to the bank. The waterbus reportedly crushed the German man, named as Joachim Reinhard Vogel, against the gondola. His three-year-old daughter suffered a head injury and was taken to hospital in nearby Padua.
Fire kills three
At least three people died in a fire at a retirement home on Friday and one resident was critically injured and placed on life support, police said. The home in the southeastern town of La Terrasse, about 30km from Grenoble, had about 80 residents. Police said the fire at the Les Solambres residence broke out in one of the residents’ rooms, but that the reason was still unknown. About 100 fire fighters and police officers evacuated most of the residence, which was being searched for possible other victims. The blaze is the worst in a French nursing home since 2011, when six people died and 13 others were injured in a similar incident in the southern port of Marseille.