France’s Green Party, the Europe Écologie-Les Verts (EELV - Europe Ecology - The Greens) was embroiled in scandal on Saturday after one of its leading members was charged with laundering money raised by the sale of drugs.
Seventeen people, including Florence Lamblin, a leading Parisian environmentalist and EELV Deputy Mayor of the 13th arrondissement (district) in Paris, have been indicted following French police breaking apart a massive Franco-Swiss money laundering operation linked to illegal drugs. The drug bust is alleged to relate to trafficking of cannabis between Morocco and the Paris region.
A French police spokesperson, speaking to Le Télégramme
, estimated that the money laundering operation had cleared a whopping €40 million over the last five months, although it had been active for a number of years.
One of those arrested is Florence Lamblin, a leading French environmentalist and French Green Party member, has been charged with “money laundering by organised gangs and criminal association.” The elected deputy mayor has strongly denied any involvement. “She told me via a text message that she had absolutely nothing to do with it,” said Paris ecologist and fellow 13th arrondissement council member, Yves Contassot, reports FranceTVInfo
. Contassot denounced the arrest of Lamblin as "attempted political manipulation," reports French political magazine L’Express
. He said Lamblin is only in the frame due to her political affiliation and was effectively being thrown to the lions. “It is not totally by chance that the opposition almost instantly reacted in denouncing the ‘permissiveness’ of the left.”
Lamblin’s lawyer, Jerome Boursican, released a statement saying that his client possessed €350,000 in a Swiss bank account but that the source of the money was a family inheritance dating back to 1920. Boursican claimed a confidante of Lamblin, who was connected to a party implicated in the money laundering operation, had made arrangements for the Swiss bank funds to be repatriated to France and that if there was any criminality, it related to a failure to declare the repatriated funds to the French tax authorities rather than money laundering.
Lamblin has agreed to resign her position as Deputy Mayor of one of Paris' electoral districts (arrondissements) pending the criminal investigation proceeding. The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë was reported to be appalled by the arrest of an elected official.
In all, 17 people were arrested last week in France and three others just over the border in Geneva, Switzerland. Several million euros in cash were seized along with a quantity of valuables. During the seizures, France 24
reports that investigators found €400,000 in cash when they raided Lamblin’s home last Wednesday morning.
Seven of those arrested have been remanded in custody pending further examination with the remainder being released on bail. Florence Lamblin has been released on bail of €80,000 according to Le Figaro
The investigation is one of the biggest police investigations into money laundering and drug trafficking that France has ever seen. French police investigations are continuing and further arrests have not been ruled out. The operation to launder the proceeds of drugs was described by investigators as a “complex machine” and is believed to involve numerous “white collar” workers and property deals.
An announcement headed ‘Indictment and Presumption of Innocence for Paris elected representative’ on the EELV party website
made reference to Florence Lamblin’s arrest. The brief announcement states, “The EELV notes the resignation of Florence Lamblin from her duties after her having been indicted in a case of a private nature. The environmental movement affirms its commitment to the duty of elected officials to conduct themselves in an exemplary manner, respects the presumption of innocence, relies on the judicial process to shed light on this matter and calls for the avoidance of any exploitation of it for political purposes.”