Ah, there’s nothing like a good cops-and-robbers mystery to pass the time on those lazy, leisurely days of summer. Wily villains, a rollicking plot, surprise revelations, the willing suspension of disbelief… And in France this year, no one needed to buy a book!
Also, the robber was a cop. Here’s what happened: on the morning of July 25, the officers of the Paris Narcotics Squad reported to duty as usual at their headquarters on Quai des Orfèvres, just down the picturesque cobblestone lane from Notre Dame, to find that 52 kilograms of cocaine, seized in a raid earlier that month, had disappeared.
That, as Napoleon said in Moscow, is one hell of a lot of snow, worth, depending on which journalist is reporting the story, anywhere from €2 million to €3 million. One independent analyst estimates that it’s enough coke to cut a dozen fat lines for every single club-goer, bartender, bouncer and DJ within a two-mile radius of Place Saint Michel on any given Saturday night. In other words, enough to last until about 10:30.
The drugs were locked in a restricted-access storage room to which only three people have the key. Demonstrating the kind of shrewd deductive reasoning that has been the hallmark of brilliant detectives from Sherlock Holmes to Encyclopedia Brown, the police first announced that they were favoring the theory of “voluntary human intervention.” Thus ruling out mice, sleepwalkers and record-producing aliens.
About a week later it emerged that a narcotics officer had been seen on the night in question leaving the building lugging two very full, very heavy bags, an accusation soon borne out by a review of the security-camera footage.
For me, the key word in that last sentence is “week”: millions of euros worth of contraband vanishes from the most heavily guarded room in a building full of professional investigators, and it takes seven days to come up with one preliminary lead? [Note to self: if you ever meet any Paris vice cops, try to get them to play Clue for money.]
Anyway, after that it did not take long to put a name to the furtive face: the suspect was a 34-year-old police sergeant identified in the press as “Jonathan G.”
I should explain here that French journalists take the presumption of innocence very seriously — reputable news sources never reveal the full names of the accused until they are convicted. Miscreants who are never brought to trial are forever referred to as Lee Harvey O., John Wilkes-B., Judas I., etc.
In keeping with procedure, the quite-possibly-innocent Mr. G. was contacted and cordially invited to drop by at his earliest convenience for a little chat with the lads from Internal Affairs. Perhaps have a cup of tea, if he happens to be the type to indulge in stimulants.
Not surprisingly, since stealing Jennifer Aniston’s weight in hard drugs is pretty much a guaranteed one-way ticket to Chantez Chantez, he denied any wrongdoing. But while he was being interrogated, his fellow officers took it upon themselves to have a glance around his apartment — in case he had left any windows open or the plants needed watering.
It turned out to be quite a task, especially when they learned that the guy doesn’t have an apartment — he has eight, seven in his hometown of Perpignan and another one in Paris. Probably just to reduce the odds of a telemarketer catching him at home.
He was also found to be in possession of some €20,000 in cash, most of which was on him when he was arrested while shopping in a supermarket. They must have been having a special on one-ounce Baggies.
So the police had a suspect, and the suspect had a suspect lifestyle, but no one had the 52 kilos of cocaine. It was, by this point, nine days after the nostril dust went missing, which would have given Monsieur G. plenty of time to sell it. Or to throw a truly unforgettable party.
Still, eager to find the powder packs that were now needed as Exhibit A in two different trials, narcotics agents took sniffer dogs on a tour of every location linked to the case. This included the garage of another policeman implicated as an accessory, where they found 300 kilos of cannabis resin in a Renault Kangoo van — in an adjacent garage.
Even though it was just a coincidence, the discovery left the investigators reeling in bewilderment, all pondering one baffling question: who, without the benefit of a crack pipe, would ever think that “Kangoo” is a good name for a vehicle?
The answer, obviously, is: French auto executives. For years, France’s automakers gave their models simple code names, like the R5, the DS, the 2CV and the T4-2. Then, as the 21st century approached, their marketing experts determined, after extensive research, that what French consumers needed and wanted most was cars with staggeringly silly names. So we got the Kangoo, Clio, Twingo and Twizy from Renault, while Citroën came up with the Saxo, the Picasso, the Jumpy and, believe it or not, the Fukang.
It doesn’t take Hercule Poirot to figure out why that last one was never exported to America or Britain: “I ordered a Fukang hatchback.” “Great — when are you pikang it up?”
But back to the Strange Case of Jonathan G. As of this writing, no trace of the cocaine has been found, and the G-man is sticking steadfastly to his story. So far he has only offered three points of explanation:
1) He did, in fact, enter the evidence room that night, but it was simply because he needed to “check out” the drugs. Whether he meant “check out” as in “Check out my new teardrop tattoo!” or as in “Check out a library book” remains unclear.
2) He did indeed somehow manage to buy eight apartments on a cop’s salary, but they are “not luxury properties.” Also, only one of his 14 cars is a Porsche, he bought his jet second-hand and his private chef lost one of his Michelin stars. So nothing suspicious there.
3) And he did undeniably have €20,000 euros in cash lying around, but it was money that he won through online gambling.
Since bets and payouts on Internet gambling sites are, pending the invention of a Star Trek beam transporter for banknotes, handled through credit cards, this makes about as much sense as the owner of the Kangoo (who, by-the-by, had another 600 kilos of hash stored in two other garages) saying that he grew the cannabis on Farmville.
So, for the moment, the mystery endures. But I’m wondering: if Jonathan G.’s presumably-soon-to-be-former co-workers find the missing coke, do they get to add those same 52 kilos to their total tally of confiscated drugs? And what if the stash goes missing again? I’m looking forward to the announcement at the end of the year:
“The Paris Narcotics Squad is pleased to report that in 2014 it seized no fewer than 5,200 kilograms of cocaine in 100 separate raids.”
© 2014 Paris UpdateFavorite
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