On the quays of Le Havre, the slow poison of cocaine trafficking

At the mouth of the Seine, its quays have become the first point of entry for South American cocaine into France. In 2021, 10 tonnes were seized in the 3 million containers – or “boxes” – which passed through it.

Plus 164% in one year, an absolute record.

“Impassable City”

As everywhere in Europe, the explosion of cocaine flows has attracted thugs of all calibers to Le Havre, lured by the enormous loot offered by the mafias who manage the traffic.

Corruption, threats and violence have appeared in the port. They mainly target its 2,200 dockers, who have become the favorite targets of traffickers.

Under the banner of the CGT union, they reign supreme amid giant cranes and mountains of multicolored containers. “Do not enter the port of Le Havre who wants”, describes a policeman to AFP “so to get the drugs out, the traffickers need accomplices, first among the dockers.”

In recent years, the names of some of them have appeared prominently in the PJ’s wiretaps. Several were sentenced to prison terms for having “collaborated” with traffickers.

One of them told his lawyer the spiral that made him dive: “Before, I collected cartons of cigarettes or perfume to resell them. It brought me 200 to 300 euros per month. One day, some guys asked us to take out some bags. 1,000 euros per bag. It started like this…”

The investigation carried out after a seizure in 2017 made it possible to draw up a scale of prices offered by “narcos”: 10,000 euros to lend an access badge, 50,000 euros to move a container, up to 75,000 euros to “authorize” his exit.

Fatal Gear

“Some dockers give in for the sake of profit, most do so under threat and pressure,” says Le Havre lawyer Valérie Giard, who defends several of them.

“The traffickers go to see them when they leave school or at the café, they show them photos of their family, give details of their activities and then say + you do this, otherwise you will have problems +”, continues Me Giard . “When they stick their finger in traffic, they don’t get out.”

Those who resist “tamponage”, in police jargon, are entitled to more drastic methods.

In June 2018, Pierre (first name changed) was kidnapped near his home. He was found a few hours later with his face swollen, his calves pierced with screwdrivers.

This 54-year-old docker told the police that his captors demanded several million euros from him with this argument: “You’re a big guy, we know where you work, you can get out of + boxes +…” Two informants will confide more late to investigators that he had “refused to work” for a trafficker.

Since 2017, around twenty Le Havre dockers have been kidnapped and kidnapped, according to the authorities.

Some have been by traffickers, others by petty thugs on the mere presumption that they had “chewed” the traffic. “The kidnapping of port agents has become the big local sport,” sighs Valérie Giard.

Fear on the docks

At least once, the kidnapping turned into a tragedy. On June 12, 2020, the body of Allan Affagard was found bloodied behind a school in the Le Havre suburbs.

This big bearded guy of 40 years is not a stranger. Docker and loud-mouthed CGT trade unionist, he had been indicted two years earlier, suspected of having facilitated the release of a good ton of cocaine. He has always denied it.

According to the testimony of his wife to the police, Allan Affagard had been embarked the day before by three hooded men. He had just filed a complaint after receiving “threatening messages”.

Three well-known characters from the Le Havre community have since been indicted for “criminal association”, but the docker’s murderers are still running.

In the city, his death caused a wind of dread to blow.

“The press saw in this case the arrival on our shores of cartel violence,” notes Guillaume Routel, one of the dockers’ “favorite” Le Havre lawyers. “It is certainly exaggerated, but the whole sector of port handling feels in danger.”

Nestled against the high railings that protect the piles of containers unloaded on the port, the bars of buildings and the small pavilions of the historic district of the dockers, the Snows, are walled in silence.

The CGT is hardly more talkative. The union got rid of a few bad apples. But he refuses to discuss their case publicly and imposes silence in his ranks.

“Everyone is anxious at the port,” confides the CGT delegate of the Le Havre customs officers, Alain Le Maire. “The traffickers observe us with binoculars or by drone. From now on, when you control a container, it is protected by colleagues armed with assault rifles.

“Enormous pressure”

Since the Affagard “electroshock”, the security of the docks has been seriously reinforced, under pressure from the State.

“Security and safety are at the heart of our concerns”, assures the management of the port, which has committed more than one million euros to equip itself with new cameras, harden its badge system and boost its workforce of guards. .

But the traffic continues to grow. At least 8.5 tonnes of “coke” have already been seized in Le Havre in 2022, calculates a police officer.

“Progress has been made but we must not lie to each other, the port remains a sieve,” grumbles a customs officer on condition of anonymity. “All the cameras in the world will not weigh heavily against the determination of the traffickers.”

“Today, there are fewer complicities among the dockers. They understood that they were playing with stronger than them”, notes the policeman. “But the pressure remains enormous and targets all port stakeholders. If we are not careful, we could fall into the same situation as in Antwerp or Rotterdam.

The script is chilling. In the Netherlands, the fearsome “Mocro-maffia” of Moroccan origin is suspected of having executed a journalist and a lawyer who were a little too curious. In Belgium, she did not hesitate to threaten the Minister of Justice.

“The situation can deteriorate here too”, recognizes the prosecutor of Le Havre, Bruno Dieudonné.

“For the moment, the traffic does not disturb the life of Le Havre. But the shooting in April and the kidnappings marked the spirits, ”continues the magistrate. “We are not yet at the attacks with heavy weapons like in Antwerp, but the danger awaits.”

On the quays of Le Havre, the slow poison of cocaine trafficking