Faced with the scale of offenses related to public health and environmental issues, it was decided to establish teams of the Central Office for Environmental Damage and Public Health (OCLAESP) in various areas of the gendarmerie. on the French mainland and abroad to better occupy the field, relying on the territorial network.
The first four were created in 2020 in Marseille, Bordeaux, Metz and Guyana, followed by three more in the summer of 2021 in Reunion, Rennes and Lyon, and finally two more this year in Papeete and Valencia. Their goal is to take into account the most important and complex disputes, as well as to be present with the territorial units and inform them of these issues in order to create a dynamic leading to the disclosure of more local cases.
Upper end of the organized crime spectrum
Thanks to his 35 years of experience in the gendarmerie, mainly in the brigade and research department, as well as in the Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity and Hate Crimes (OCCLCH), which he joined when it was created in 2013. , Squadron Leader (CEN) Christophe König commands a group of six explorers that cover a territory made up of twelve departments: all of the Rhône-Alpes and Auvergne, except for the Ardèche, plus the Hautes-Alpes department, due to its judicial annex to the Court of Appeal of Grenoble.
“At this point, he explains, the priority is to make ourselves known, so that our many partners know that we exist, such as the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB), the National Office of Forests (ONF), Primary Health Insurance. The Foundation (CPAM) and the Control and Research Teams (BCR) of the tax administration, which can detect phenomena and report them to us, as well as the referral environment of magistrates in the specialized centers of the four courts of appeal: Lyon, Chambéry, Clermont-Ferrand and Grenoble. »
Warrant Officer Stéphane is one of the squad’s six Lyons investigators. Previously assigned to the Embrun Brigade in the Hautes-Alpes, he responded to a call for volunteers to join the OCLAESP. “The subject interested me. We start with waste sorting, then we want to do more, act concretely. And my job allowed me to do that. But we don’t do anything exceptional, just our role as police. These are classic forensic investigations, even if there are many interlocutors we can rely on. What is rewarding is working with files that touch the high end of the organized crime spectrum. »
Medicines, waste, doping…
The OCLAESP unit in Lyon is currently working on more than fifteen investigations, and very serious ones. “The basins of Lyon and Grenoble constitute an important crime zone through which a large amount of traffic passes,” analyzes CEN Koenig. Due to the health crisis, some drug control networks have diversified their activities in relation to drug trafficking, of which Lyon has quickly become the center. This is traffic that brings in more profit, with fewer fines than for drugs. This will definitely create a draft. »
To investigate this trafficking, which is most often international in nature, the OCLAESP police rely on their border partners, the Swiss and Italians, through the Centers for Police and Customs Cooperation (CCPD) in Geneva and Modan. “The Carabinieri also have a unit dedicated to combating environmental crimes, CUFAA (Comando unità forestali, ambiental e agroalimentari), which is one of our privileged interlocutors,” says the head of the unit.
Drug-trafficking cases aren’t the only ones that end up in the Office’s investigators’ offices. Unnecessary traffic is another serious problem. The criminal scheme is often the same: fictitious companies are created offering services for the disposal and processing of construction waste; except that in reality, of course, they basically recover the payments, and the waste is thrown into nature. “Until now, these facts have mainly been observed in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, but this phenomenon is beginning to develop in Rhone-Alpes,” the officer notes. This is the whole point of regionalization: to be close to the field, in contact with the actors, to detect the emergence of phenomena and receive information. »
Another problem well known to the general public: doping. The Alps and the Massif Central oblige, the Tour de France takes place every year in the area. Since 2009, OCLAESP has included investigations related to doping in high-level sports within its scope. Thus, at every stage of the Tour de France there is a couple from the Office, whose main task is to open an investigation in the event of a positive anti-doping test result.
But cycling is not the only sport. The 2023 Rugby World Cup matches will take place in Lyon and Saint-Étienne and if the 2024 Olympics are held in Paris, the possible doping trafficking will affect all branches of OCLAESP, and especially the branch from Lyon, again due to the role of the hub of the Rhone Corridor . “However, top-level sports are a bit like the visible tip of an iceberg,” notes CEN Koenig. Mass doping is a very important public health problem. »
Therefore, in the capital of Gaul, OCLAESP investigators are dealing with an ever-growing volume of files, with a significant cyber component, since much of the traffic develops online, on the dark web. The number of servicemen assigned to the detachment should soon increase to ten.