Officer investigated after cocaine theft

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iol pic wld france bernard AFP French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve (above) has called for an in-depth investigation into the theft - the second scandal this year to hit the Paris police headquarters. Picture: Bertrand Langlois

Paris - A French prosecutor placed a police sergeant suspected of having stolen 52kg of cocaine from the Paris police headquarters under formal investigation for theft on Wednesday, a judicial source said.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has called for a “rigorous, in-depth” investigation into the theft, the second scandal this year to hit the Paris police headquarters overlooking the Seine river.

The 34-year-old officer, who belonged to an anti-drug unit, is suspected of having stolen the drugs worth about two million euros ($2.7 million) from a secure room inside the headquarters, where they had been placed after being seized in a raid.

He was arrested last Saturday at his vacation home in the south-western city of Perpignan. Fellow officers had identified him as the same man they saw on surveillance footage leaving the site with two bags on the night of July 24.

The officer, who was suspended from duty, denies any wrongdoing.

The prosecutor's office placed the officer under formal investigation for theft by a government employee, as well as several other charges.

Investigators said they had found about 25 000 euros in cash in a rucksack at the suspect's Paris apartment. The suspect claimed that he had won the money gambling, the source said.

The stolen cocaine is still missing.

A second officer, who was arrested on Monday on suspicion that he had helped the first gain access to the secure room, was released and will testify as a witness in any trial.

In April, two officers from an anti-gang squad were placed under formal investigation after they were accused of having raped a Canadian woman visiting Paris. That investigation is continuing. - Reuters

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