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.
Bodyguards in demand
A growing number of Indians and tourists are hiring bodyguards for protection after a series of violent attacks. Security agencies say business is booming as western visitors and local business people join celebrities and the super-rich in acquiring greater security. “We get a lot of calls for personal security officers from western business executives or people from west Asia,” said Anubhav Khiwani, co-owner of Denetim Services, a newly established company in Delhi. “Once or twice a month a single woman or a holidaying family will also ask for a bodyguard. The gang rape of a physiotherapist in Delhi last December impacted the psyche of people across the world,” she said.
Inferno kills four people
A massive fire broke out on Friday at a petroleum refinery in southern India, killing four workers and leaving dozens injured, police said. Another 11 people were feared trapped at the Hindustan Petroleum Corp refinery in Visakhapatnam, a port city 503km from Andhra Pradesh state capital Hyderabad, officials added. “The mishap occurred at a block in the refinery where a new tower is being constructed,” city police commissioner B. Sivadhar Reddy said. “As of now, four workers have been burned to death and about 30 are injured. Some of the injured persons are in critical condition,” Reddy said, adding that a short-circuit may have triggered the blaze. Fire and other accidents are common in India’s factories because of a lack of safety measures and inspections. The UN International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that nearly 50,000 Indians die from work-related accidents or illness each year.
Outspoken professor sacked
An outspoken college law professor calling for constitutional rule has been banned from teaching, as the Chinese authorities tighten ideological controls, including launching an unusual assault on advocacy of constitutionalism. Zhang Xuezhong (張雪忠), a teacher at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, said he was notified last week that he is no longer qualified to teach any course at the school. Zhang said university officials said his June article critical of anti-constitutionalism was, in fact, unconstitutional and in violation of laws regulating teacher behavior. Since May, state media and party publications have published a series of strongly worded editorials denouncing talk of constitutional rule, saying it was a western political tool that is incompatible with China’s social system. In his June article, Zhang warned that the editorials would stifle the propagation of constitutional values such as freedom of speech, democracy and rule of law, and urged China’s leaders to build a constitutional nation.
Fushun flood kills 76
A river flood triggered by torrential rains has killed 76 people and left another 88 missing in a northeastern city, Xinhua news agency said yesterday. A siren wailed, and mourners stood in silence in a memorial service held yesterday in the city of Fushun, Xinhua said. A statement by the Fushun City Government declared yesterday as a citywide day of condolence and that all public entertainment activities should be halted for the day. Mountainous Fushun has been hit hard by floods ravaging the country’s northeastern provinces this month. Fushun Mayor Luan Qingwei (欒慶偉) told the memorial service that the flood was the worst for decades for the city, where a river cuts through the downtown, Xinhua reported.