A seizure by the customs officers of the BSI of Ax-les-Thermes makes it possible to dismantle the traffic of glass eels bound for Asia

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Three men of Asian origin, an ordinary vehicle, but two very special suitcases in the trunk: the intervention of Ax customs officers brought to light an incredible trafficking in glass eels, a protected species, which generates enormous profits . Extensive prison sentences have recently been handed down by a specialized court in Bordeaux. An exemplary sentence, welcome the environmental protection associations.

That evening, the customs officers of the BSI of Ax-les-Thermes decided to check an ordinary vehicle, occupied by three Asian nationals, Chinese they will discover. The control takes place in peace, without opposition. Customs officers ask to check the trunk of the vehicle, which was heading for Andorra, and there they get their hands on two specially fitted suitcases, containing many plastic bags.

Suitcases specially designed for transport

“These plastic bags were filled with water and equipped with pumps to provide oxygen,” recalls an investigator. Inside the plastic bags, a large quantity of elvers, eel fry, intended for resale on the Asian market, where their price allows significant profits. “More profitable than narcotics”, concludes the investigator. And totally illegal: glass eels are one of the strictly protected species. Fishing is strictly regulated. But the appetite of the Asian world for eels, and the impossibility of breeding eels in captivity, have made this traffic particularly juicy (read opposite)

The seizure of 50 kg of glass eels carried out by the men of the Ax-les-Thermes Internal Surveillance Brigade, a little over a year ago, had a market value of around € 500,000. On the Asian market, the price of a kg of glass eels is in fact negotiated around 1000 €.

The three men are placed in administrative detention, then handed over to justice. The file is then sent to the specialized organization, the JIRS (2) of Bordeaux. The catch is important: 50 kg of glass eels, for an estimated value of € 500,000 on resale.

The seized glass eels were returned to nature by the investigators.

Heavy prison sentences

A few days ago, the three traffickers were to appear, in Bordeeaux, in court. They were absent at the hearing: they had been released after a year of preventive detention, due to Covid. They receive heavy prison sentences (five years in prison, two of which are suspended for them, one year in prison for the third, considered as the “driver.” Arrest warrants have been issued against the first two. “These are important penalties, we hope that this judgment will make noise in China,” said Me Ruffié, lawyer for France Nature Environment, civil party in the trial (AFP). It is a large network , Very organized. We found traces of their passage in Nantes, Spain and Portugal. One of them is being indicted in this (last) country “.

(1) Internal surveillance brigade. (2) Created by the law of March 9, 2004 and set up in October 2004, the specialized interregional jurisdictions (JIRS) bring together prosecutors and investigators with experience in the area of fight against organized crime and financial delinquency in highly complex cases.

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