Who are these people walking their dog on the beach of Réville, on the east coast of Normandy’s Cherbourg peninsula, while a gray helicopter circles overhead? And these young people out walking on the beach of Dranguet, near a demolished blockhouse where by prefectural decree “swimming, traffic, parking and anchoring of all unregistered vessels or devices are forbidden because of the risk of discovering explosives”?
And what about this couple, picking through the garbage washed up by the tide near Néville-sur-Mer, about ten kilometers to the northwest, indifferent to the comings and goings of a police vehicle? Or the occupants of a parked vehicle, staring at the empty sea with binoculars from the quay of Fontenay-sur-mer, further south?
Spectators, certainly. But also “worrying” people, in the eyes of the population of the eastern tip of the Cotentin peninsula in France’s lower Normandy region. These locals are far from reassured by all the comings and goings since two huge bags stuffed with cocaine bundles were found on the beach at Dranguet, Sunday, February 26. These were joined in the following days by other shipments packaged in the same way, on the beaches of Néville and Omonville-la-Rogue on the northern coast of the peninsula.
In total, 2.3 tonnes of white powder were recovered on these Normandy beaches, according to Rennes public prosecutor Philippe Astruc, representing a value of about €150 million and about 7% of the cocaine seized on national territory in 2022. Other small quantities have since been reported, west of Cherbourg. And the case is now being followed in Paris by the National Court responsible for combating organized crime.
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This is not the first time that cocaine has arrived on the French coastline. At the end of 2019, bundles containing a total of 1.6 metric tons of cocaine washed up on the beaches of a wide area from Saint-Jean-de-Luz (in the southeast of the country) to Camaret-sur-Mer (in Brittany ). In his office, the mayor of Réville, Yves Asseline, admitted he was also “worried” and “sad” to see such quantities of drugs arrive on French shores. But he tried to downplay the situation.
Before explaining the particularities of his town, a village of a thousand inhabitants “which lives on tourism and is dying as a result of holiday homes,” he shows the photocopy of an image received a few days after the first stranding: a hijacking of the cover of the 1958 book The Adventures of Tintin: Coke in Stock, with a Normandy symbol. “We Normans don’t do things by halves – when we order, we order,” one of his constituents joked.
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