Evening Update Monday 1st April 2024

Tobacconists on the French Riviera say they're disappointed after France introduced relaxed rules on how many cigarettes people can bring into the country from Italy. A decree published late last week scraps the previous limit of one carton - that's 200 cigarettes - in order to comply with European law. The European limit is set at four cartons. However, from now, French customs officers will have more power to assess on a case-by-case basis whether they think an import of cigarettes is fair personal use or potentially for illegal resale. Tobacconists in France point out that the cost of cigarettes in Italy is much lower - some cartons are almost half the price - and they fear that will harm their business. Pierre Romero, president of the Alpes-Maritimes tobacconists’ federation, described the relaxed rules as an "economic disaster" for the sector.

Meanwhile, customs officers in the Alpes-Maritimes have reinforced their checks on illegal cigarette imports in recent days. Last week, a major operation saw 115 kilos of contraband tobacco products seized locally and 27 tonnes nationwide. Raids took place in Nice, Cannes, Vallauris and Antibes. It was part of a France-wide operation that led to 108 arrests nationally, eight of which were in the Alpes-Maritimes. Customs officers are also carrying out more checks on businesses selling cigarettes illegally - including late-night convenience stores and bars. A few weeks ago, agents seized 1,000 cartons of cigarettes and €30,000 in cash from a shisha bar in central Nice.

In other local news, a prominent Muslim scholar has been booked to speak in Nice next month - a year after authorities failed in their previous attempt to ban him from the city. Tariq Ramadan will attend a literary debate in Nice on 8th May, during which he will discuss freedoms, in the context of George Orwell's 1984, as well as discussing his latest book. He'll also give public speaking workshops in Nice a week later. An appeal court ruling is due in Switzerland next month after Tariq Ramadan was acquitted in a rape case last year. The appeals verdict is due around the same time as his visit to Nice. Last June, the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, tried to pass a decree banning the event at which Ramadan was booked to speak. His lawyers successfully challenged that in court and the literary lunch went ahead.

Families have expressed their relief after a cemetery in Nice that was severely damaged by storms has finally managed to reopen, one month later. The Caucade cemetery had been off-limits since 3rd March after dozens of fallen trees caused damage to several graves. The City of Nice decided to use the cemetery's closure as an opportunity to check that all the other trees in the cemetery were safe. It finally reopened on Saturday and families have been able to visit their relatives' graves again.

Monaco's health and social affairs minister has warned that a fake Facebook account has been set up in his name,  Christophe Robino said it could have been used as a phishing attempt to encourage residents to divulge personal and health-related data.

Access to Larvotto beach in Monaco will be limited for three weeks later this month, and swimming at Larvotto will be banned. The measures apply from 15 April to 3 May. It's to allow for works to be carried out on the beach ahead of the peak summer season, as well as some off-shore work to help promote marine biodiversity. A small plot of the beach will still be accessible and local restaurants and businesses will remain open.

And France Bleu local radio station has been having some April Fool's Day fun this morning with a story claiming that the town of Biot is to be given the feminine name Biotte (with TE on the end) to promote gender equality. It was reported that the town council would vote on the name change at a meeting in early July. The mayor of Biot, Jean-Pierre Demit, said the name change, conveniently announced on April 1st, would also help Parisian visitors to the Riviera who struggle to pronounce his town's name. He told France Bleu he was fed up of hearing Biot pronounced "bio" - with a silent T - like the organic food, while spelling it Biotte would avoid any confusion.

BUSINESS

Just days after Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi launched its first electric vehicle (EV), buyers have been told they may have to wait up to six months for their car to be delivered. Screen grabs on Chinese social media show the firm advising buyers it could take 27 weeks to deliver the SU7 Max. The company previously said pre-orders had hit 88,898 within 24 hours of it starting to take orders on Thursday. The technology giant, which is the third-largest seller of smartphones in the world with a market share of about 12%, is taking on EV rivals including Tesla and BYD in the world's biggest market for cars.

It's reported that the owner of Formula One motor racing will unveil a €4 billion takeover of MotoGP’s parent company early this week. Greg Maffei, the president and chief executive of Liberty Media Corporation, is expected to announce the motorsport industry's most significant corporate deal for years during a trip to Madrid. The deal has been on the cards for weeks, after it emerged that Liberty was in talks to buy Dorna Sports for €4bn. The ultimate price could be slightly higher, with one source telling Sky News that a formal announcement would come before Wednesday.

And Adnams, one of the most historic names in British brewing, is to explore an outright sale amid a funding squeeze across the industry which has triggered a growing wave of insolvencies. Adnams has reportedly begun contacting prospective investors and buyers after hiring advisers earlier this year to shore up its finances. The 134 year-old Suffolk brewery acknowledged that a full sale of the company was now an option, having indicated last month that it was not under consideration. But Adnams' preferred routes to raising capital remain a funding injection from a high net worth investor or family office. The sale of some of its freehold assets from its estate of pubs and inns would also be considered.

SPORT

Women's cricket - Amy Jones hit a superb unbeaten 92 to lead England to a four-wicket win over New Zealand in the first one-day international. Responding to New Zealand's 207 all-out, England secured victory on 209-6.

Football - Real Madrid's final match before facing Manchester City in the Champions League ended in a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao thanks to two fine goals by Rodrygo. Real Madrid, who welcomed back England midfielder Jude Bellingham from suspension, are eight points clear of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with eight games remaining. They host Manchester City in the quarter-final first leg of the Champions League on 9 April.

In local football over the weekend, in Ligue 1, third-placed Monaco secured a stunning 5-2 win away at Metz and are now just one point behind Stade Brestois who are second in the table. OGC Nice are fifth in the table, losing 2-1 to Nantes this weekend at the Allianz Riviera.

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