Marseille anti-crime unit shut down over extreme corruption


Police officers arrive at the courthouse in Marseille, souhtern France, on October 5, 2012. Police officers from a special anti-crime squad were arrested on October 2, 2012 and detained as part of an investigation into organised theft, extortion, violence and drugs.


Gerard Julien

A Marseille anti-crime police unit has been shut down following discoveries of rampant corruption within the 60-member brigade.

Twelve police officers who worked in the crime-ridden northern areas of Marseille, France's second largest city, were brought to court Friday for charges of corruption, extortion and drug dealing, Agence France Presse reported

Seven of those officers were jailed and five given provisional release, and the unit as a whole has been terminated. The suspects could face up to 20 years in prison. 

"The feeling is of a gangrene that has struck, that has touched this service," prosecutor Jacques Dallest said in a news conference, Reuters reported. "I consider it an organized system of theft, racketeering, and drug trafficking."

Drugs, money, and jewelry were found in secret ceiling compartments at the station, as well as in the police officers' lockers and homes. 

More from GlobalPost: South Africa troubled by corrupt cops

Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced the closing down of the unit Friday, saying "There is no place for those who tarnish the uniform of the police, which is an honor for those who wear it," Euronews reported

A source close to the police who spoke on condition of anonymity said that more arrests of the brigade's members were expected, Panorama reported

Marseille is not the only French city with a police corruption problem: the former deputy police chief of Lyon was charged with accepting gifts from criminals in the city, and is under house arrest awaiting trial, according to AFP.