March 23 2010

– Ten British gangsters have been arrested in France after a vast drug and money-laundering operation was smashed.

The men and women were seized at isolated properties in the Dordogne region, which is hugely popular with UK expatriates and tourists.

Officers from both sides of the Channel raided upmarket homes in two villages near Perigueux and found vast quantities of drugs and cash.

The criminals claimed the millions of used notes came from Premier League football ‘transfer bungs’.

Much of it had been transported in reinforced hidden compartments in luxury cars. It was being used to buy chateaux and land in the area.

The arrests are linked to an investigation into Darren Owen, brother of EastEnders actor Sid Owen, who has been charged with smuggling £1million of cocaine into Britain. He is currently remanded in custody.

Police say most of the money came from bringing cocaine into Britain, but French investigating officer Guy Sapata did not rule out the Premier League link.

‘Organised crime is involved in all kinds of activities. There could be an overlap between drugs, money-laundering and big money transfers,’ he said.

Some of the biggest clubs in England have been accused of using under-the-table cash to tempt players from France.

Some of those arrested claimed to have moved to France ‘for the good life’, said an investigating officer.

One claims he was regularly receiving cash payments for his work with UK-based football agents.

The enquiry began in May 2009 when one of the accused – named only as Stephen C – was arrested in a car travelling from Narbonne, on the south coast, to the city of Toulouse, in the south west.

Police found half-a-million pounds worth of used notes in a hidden compartment in the boot of his Mercedes, along with traces of cocaine.

The Englishman had been put under surveillance, and the police established that he had made at least 20 ‘suspicious’ journeys delivering money around Europe.

Cocaine is thought to have been delivered from Spain, after arriving in boats from Africa, said police.

But there is also an allegation that some of the cash was linked to agents or other parties involved in the lucrative – and notoriously unregulated – trade in footballers.


‘Dordogneshire’: Police raided the gang in the Dordogne region of France, above, where they were living as British ex-pats who moved ‘for a better life’

‘He told us that all the money came from professional footballer transfers in England,’ added the investigating officer.

‘Those arrested say they had links with big names in the world of Premiership football.’

Stephen C was placed in custody under suspicion of laundering money associated with Britain’s cocaine trade.

During many months of questioning he led detectives to the pretty villages of Augignac and Champniers-et-Reilhac, close to Perigueux, in the Dordogne.

All of those involved were blending in with the thousands of Britons who have set up homes in one of the most unspoiled regions of Europe – one which is frequently referred to as ‘Dordogneshire’ because of its popularity with what the French call ‘Anglo Saxons’.

It was in Augignac, which has a population of just 850, that two suspects named as Mickael K and Sophie S were arrested on February 24th this year.

‘They owned a villa estimated to be worth around 175,000 euros, and a second home in Charente, as well as agricultural land worth around 150,000 euros,’ said another police source.

‘They’d also invested in three plots of land in another part of the Dordogne,’ he added.

Mark B, another local resident, is considered to be a ‘mastermind’ behind the operation, and was arrested during a visit to a London clinic on February 14th.

When police raided his parents’ home at Champniers-et-Reilhac, which has a population of just 500, they found a sky blue DB7, and a Mercedes with a hidden compartment identical to the one found in the car in which Stephen C was arrested.

‘The cars were typical of the kind of flash, luxury goods these suspects have been using,’ said the police source. ‘They had stacks of money and were regularly investing in land and luxury properties. They are also believed to have been investing in Cyprus’.

The officer said Mark B’s parents had already offered £50,000 in cash to pay for their son’s defence.

He added: ‘All those arrested are being questing pending court appearances.’

The investigation is being coordinated by Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Toulouse judicial police.

– Peter Allen


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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