French tax agent ‘kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit’

A French tax inspector was kidnapped and killed, reportedly while carrying out a tax audit in a village in northern France on Monday evening.

French tax agent 'kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit'
Gendarmes stand guard at the scene where a tax agent was killed in Bellecourt northern France, on November 22, 2022. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP)

The 43-year-old tax agent died on Monday night in northern France, with local media Actu Pas-de-Calais reporting that he was killed by the man whom he was auditing, who later died by suicide.

Emergency services were called to the small village of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais département of northern France at around 8pm. Upon arriving they found two men dead and a woman, reported to be another employee of the tax office, tied up.

She was not believed to be seriously injured but was treated for shock. 

The public prosecutor released a statement saying that both tax agents “were carrying out an at-home audit to check the accounts” of the local man reported to be a brocanteur (antique dealer), who then “kidnapped them and tied them up.” 

“The accused then killed himself with a firearm,” according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The mayor of Bullecourt, a small village of 250 inhabitants, told AFP that he remembered the accused antique dealer as a “helpful” and “ordinary person” who had “integrated into the village.”

Gabriel Attal, the Public Accounts Minister, issued a statement on Monday evening expressing his condolences and saying that the tax agent “was simply doing his job” and that “today, he did not return.” The minister lamented that the agent was “killed while completing a tax audit.”

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Marseille district sees weary but wary relief in drug crackdown

French police have flooded the troubled Marseille district of La Castellane with forces since a crackdown on the drug trade started last month, and one mother told how she feels safer, for now at least.

Marseille district sees weary but wary relief in drug crackdown

Before, drug dealers would hang around the housing estate, and up the road some had set up a roadblock of shopping carts and wooden pallets to keep authorities out.

“They took the carts and palets away. Now you no longer hear the shouting, the young guys loitering,” the woman said outside her son’s school, refusing to give her name for fear of reprisals.

“It’s a relief, especially for my 10-year-old son,” the woman added, standing at the foot of huge white housing blocks in La Castellane.

“He looks older, so the guys would always call him over on his way to school,” she said. “I was terrified they would recruit him.”

President Emmanuel Macron last month announced an “XXL” cleanup of drug trafficking in the southern port city and other towns across France where the lucrative drugs trade has caused death and uncertainty.

Turf wars for control of Marseille’s drug dealing left 49 people dead last year. Four were innocent bystanders.

Residents of La Castellane and La Paternelle, two of the worst-hit districts, say they are relieved by the clampdown.

But many fear insecurity will return when police leave. Almost all refused to give their names out of fear for their safety.

‘PR stunt’

In La Castellane, a father watched his two boys play near a mural of football superstar Zinedine Zidane, who was born in the district.

“It’s been calmer for three weeks,” he said, before hastily adding: “Drug dealers are none of my business.”

Sitting with friends outside a shop, another young man in a baseball cap said he was unimpressed.

“They came here to ‘clean up’, but those suffering the most are residents being slapped with fines” for car offences, he said.

“If you see someone selling hash, you walk away, that’s it,” he added.

“There are more worrying things here — the dirtiness, the rats.”

Among a dozen police officers at the entrance to the neighbourhood, one said certain residents would be unhappy because “some lived from” the drug trade.

Another said the clean-up had pushed dealers “elsewhere” or onto social media to make sales. Police say they have arrested around 850 people.

Authorities have promised to maintain pressure on gangs, but they will also be busy securing the city for the arrival of the Olympic torch on March 8 as part of a nationwide tour before the Paris Games this year.

One investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the clean-up operation was “a PR stunt”.

“It looks good to… deploy some blue uniforms. You can see it… calm has returned for the moment,” the investigator said.

“But it needs to be non-stop. And there needs to be a return to the basics… re-opening police stations in the housing estates — not just crackdowns.”

‘Nothing here’

In La Paternelle, four dealing points that once generated €200,000 a day have disappeared since January as part of a police crackdown before Macron’s announcement.

On the orange walls of a small apartment building, “menus” once advertising drugs for sale have been erased.

Just the word “Yoda” acts as a reminder of the gang that once fought for control of the area against its rival “DZ Mafia”. That caused many of the drug-related deaths in the city.

Onissa, a resident who said she had lived in the neighbourhood for 24 years, said the neighbourhood was getting more sleep.

“No one wakes up in the middle of the night anymore,” she said. “But we still are still wary.”

Many people have scars from Marseille’s drug battles. Onissa said she would never forget her son’s face after he saw a 35-year-old shot dead below their flat in May last year.

Not far off, two elderly women sat in the sun at the foot of an apartment block.

They recalled armed men in balaclavas suddenly appearing one afternoon in the middle of a children’s playground.

One of the women sat on her walking frame in a space where youth gang members once burnt wooden pallets.

But she said she wished there were children’s games on the nearby grass.

The owner of the only shop on the housing estate agreed. “A little life is coming back, but there is nothing here,” he said.