Evening Update Wednesday 11th October 2023

A vast anti-mafia operation on the Côte d'Azur has resulted in 17 arrests - including a Monegasque police officer. Nine of the people arrested have been charged with crimes ranging from drug smuggling in an organised gang, money laundering, trafficking weapons and corrupting a police officer. The operation comes after a two-year-long investigation into a mafia network with links to the Balkans, operating on the French Riviera and in Monaco. France's national police unit for the fight against organised crime pieced together evidence from leaked conversations on the encrypted social network Sky ECC, which is commonly used by drug traffickers. The arrests were made last week in Nice, Drap, Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Menton. During the house raids, police seized a luxury car, watches and weapons. Among those arrested was a Monaco police officer who is suspected of passing sensitive information to the gang members.

A former US marine has been jailed for 15 years for beating a homeless man to death in July 2019. The 48-year-old attacker had been providing temporary accommodation at his home in Nice to the victim, a Frenchman. After a drunken argument, the former soldier delivered about 60 blows to the victim's face and torso, before going into hiding with his partner in Draguignan. He was initially charged with murder, but this was downgraded to manslaughter after his defence pleaded that he had no intention to kill. Two other people present in the apartment at the time were jailed for three and four years for failing to assist a person in danger.

Three people have been arrested in connection with a violent road rage incident on the Voie Mathis in Nice. A motorist suffered serious head injuries on Sunday when they were attacked by the occupants of another car. Mobile phone video footage filmed by witnesses appears to show one of the suspected attackers brandishing what appears to be an axe. The victim was treated at Pasteur 2 hospital and signed off work for six days.

Marseille has been named as the French city where drivers waste the most time in traffic jams to get to work. The city came top in a ranking of traffic jams by TomTom and Auto Plus magazine. During rush hours, the average car journey takes 81% longer than it does off-peak. The average Marseille driver spends 39 hours a month stuck in traffic - that's two hours more than in Paris.

The City of Nice has issued an order to put a stop to unsightly key safes cluttering the facades of buildings. The little boxes, which are unlocked with a code, are commonly used by AirBnB landlords to make it possible for tenants to check-in by themselves. Nice mayor Christian Estrosi says many of the key safes have been installed in public places, such as on lamp-posts and other street furniture, without permission. A municipal worker is walking around the city putting stickers on key safes that have been installed illegally. Owners will have 15 days to remove them before they are taken to the municipal police lost property department.

A 15-year-old girl who went missing from her family home in the Var a week ago has been found alive and well. The Var gendarmerie had put out a missing persons alert when Théa left home in the early hours of last Wednesday morning. In an update yesterday, gendarmes said she was safe and sound.

Nice university has called in fumigators to deal with an infestation of bedbugs at its Saint-Jean-d'Angely campus. It comes after one of the lecture halls was evacuated last Thursday after students spotted the blood-sucking creatures on the furniture. A specialist company was brought in over the weekend to disinfect the campus.

The Grasse prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into claims of fraud and deceptive commercial practices at a second-hand multimedia retailer with two branches on the Riviera. Hubside is present in about 100 French cities, including in Mandelieu and at Cap 3000 in Saint-Laurent-du-Var. The Grasse prosecutor says it is aware of several complaints from customers who say they suffered from pushy sales techniques and unauthorised direct debits from their bank account. Several groups on social media feature customers' testimonies. Hubside said in a statement that 99% of its customers were satisfied and that it carries out thorough checks. It said it had a zero-tolerance approach to non-compliance and, when problems arise, it was quick to fix them. The retailer also said that it would be reinforcing its vigilance at the two affected stores on the Riviera.

The Monegasque government says it will provide financial support to encourage more specialist doctors to set up a practice in the principality. Monaco has a shortage of gynaecologists, paediatricians, rheumatologists and psychiatrists. It's mainly due to doctors reaching retirement age - and newly qualified specialists are often put off by the high price of rents. Monaco's government advisor on social affairs says the principality is looking at making available premises that belong to the state, and charging doctors a limited rent. It's also looking at other financial support, and encouraging existing doctors to share their premises with others.

The Monte-Carlo SBM is expanding beyond the principality for the first time, with the acquisition of its first hotel in the French Alps. The Société des Bains de Mer is now officially the owner of the Palace des Neiges in the chic ski resort of Courchevel. The luxury hotel is the group's first hotel project outside of Monaco. It's planning a major renovation of the property next year.

Meanwhile, the largest private château in Provence has gone up for sale at auction. The Château de La Verdière, in the Haut-Var, has 120 rooms spread over four floors - that's 3,000 square metres of living space - not to mention 10 hectares of vineyards. The historic monument has been listed since the mid-80s and fell into disrepair over several decades until its current owner bought and restored it in 2003. Bids are being invited in excess of €9 million.

BUSINESS

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the UK faces another five years of high interest rates to stem rising prices.  The IMF expects the UK to have the highest inflation and slowest growth next year of any G7 economy including the US, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan. The outlook was drawn up before this weekend's developments in Israel. The IMF, an international organisation with 190 member countries, has said the forecasts it makes for growth the following year in most advanced economies have, more often than not, been within about 1.5 percentage points of what actually happens.

The EU has warned Elon Musk that X is being used to spread "disinformation" after Hamas' attack on Israel.
In a post on the site formerly known as Twitter, Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market of the European Union, said "violent and terrorist content" had not been taken down, despite warnings - as is required by EU law. Mr Musk said his company had taken action, including by removing newly-created Hamas-affiliated accounts. He asked the EU to list the alleged violations. Breton did not give details on the disinformation he was referring to in his letter to Mr Musk. However, he said that instances of "fake and manipulated images and facts" were widely reported on the social media platform.

And securing direct flights from Israel to many European countries has become increasingly difficult with more airlines cancelling flights after the Hamas attacks. Virgin Atlantic is now operating one flight from Tel Aviv to London a day instead of two, while British Airways continues to operate one round trip. EasyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air as well as Air France, Lufthansa and Emirates have suspended all flights from Israel. Some flights are running - but with many fully booked, tickets are scarce. Flightradar24, a website which tracks flights, said many airlines had cancelled journeys due to safety concerns, but added the airspace over Israel isn't closed, so the number of flights flying to or from Tel Aviv is currently down to individual operators.

SPORT

Cricket - England responded to defeat in their World Cup opener by comprehensively beating Bangladesh by 137 runs. After last week's heavy nine-wicket defeat by New Zealand, Dawid Malan's superb 140 from 107 balls formed the basis of England's 364-9. Earlier, Bangladesh had managed 227 all out, with England winning by 137 runs.

Meanwhile, Pakistan superbly chased a World Cup record 345 to beat Sri Lanka in the game of the 2023 tournament so far in Hyderabad. Sri Lanka made 344-9 from their 50 overs. Pakistan replied with an impressive 345-4, winning by six wickets. The match is the first in World Cup history to have had four centuries.

Tennis - Rafael Nadal will make his return to Grand Slam tennis following hip surgery at the 2024 Australian Open, tournament CEO Craig Tiley has confirmed. Spain's 22-time Grand Slam champion has been out of action since January and underwent surgery in June. Nadal, 37, has said he plans to retire at the end of the 2024 season. Nadal has been sidelined since injuring his hip in a second-round defeat by Mackenzie McDonald at January's Australian Open. In announcing he would miss the French Open for the first time in 19 years - the tournament where he has won 14 of his majors - Nadal said next year will "probably" be the last year of his career.

Football - Former Chelsea winger Eden Hazard has announced his retirement from football. Hazard, 32, joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2019 for £89m, but played just 54 league games for the Spanish giants and left the club at the end of last season. He won two Premier League titles during his time at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian had already retired from international football last December after being part of the squad which was knocked out of the 2022 World Cup during the group stage.

Rugby Union - Ireland wing Mack Hansen has won his race to be fit for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against New Zealand. Hansen hurt his calf win in last week's win over Scotland but has recovered in time to start against the All Blacks, while James Ryan is ruled out. Ireland head coach Andy Farrell's starting line-up is unchanged from last weekend's Pool B win over Scotland.

Cycling - While the full route of the Tour de France won't be unveiled for another two weeks, we already know that there'll be three days of action on the Riviera. The time-trial on Sunday 21st July from Monaco to Nice had already been announced - replacing the traditional sprint on the Champs-Elysées to avoid a clash with the Olympics. The day before, Saturday 20th July, is the final mountain stage of the Tour, from Nice to the Col de la Couillole. Now, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has announced that the stage on Friday 19th July will feature a finish line at Isola 2000. The full route will be announced at an event in Paris on 25th October.

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