The seventeen defendants, in this case examined until Friday in Draguignan, face up to ten years of imprisonment and a million euros fine for various criminal offenses and environmental attacks.
Prison sentences were required this Wednesday in Draguignan (Var) at the trial of the “waste mafia”, as well as heavy fines and the confiscation of sums intended for the rehabilitation of twenty irremediably polluted land.
Natural sites of the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes, sometimes classified, are definitely “disfigured and have lost their environmental stake”, while they are part “of an ecosystem that we are trying to protect”, denounced the substitute for the prosecutor Mathilde Gauvain.
In a case “emblematic by the means implemented”, according to a lawyer of the civil parties, with hours of telephone tapping and overflights by helicopter to detect deliveries by truck, five years of imprisonment including three years suspended, the heaviest requisition, were claimed against a 34-year-old man with an already extensive criminal record, tried in particular for threats of death, abandonment of waste and laundering.
Fines of up to 500,000 euros
Against two other defendants, a four-year prison sentence with a three-year suspension was requested. Finally, two years’ imprisonment, including six months suspended, were required against a man tried in particular for extortion with violence and abandonment of waste.
Conditional sentences ranging from four months to three years have been requested against the other six defendants.
The public prosecutor, who asked for management bans, also demanded fines of up to 500,000 euros, both against these ten defendants and against the seven companies prosecuted. Finally, confiscations of large sums, up to 500,000 euros and intended for the rehabilitation of land, were required.
22 polluted sites to be rehabilitated
The total amount of the rehabilitation of the 22 polluted sites is estimated between five and six million euros.
The seventeen defendants are being prosecuted for abandonment and irregular management of waste in an organized group, under the environmental code. But also, on the penal level, for fraud by an organized gang, threats of death, felony or misdemeanor, or even extortion by violence, among others.
In total, 22 sites in the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes received so-called “inert” soil mixed with bitumen or plastic, or even mercury or lead.
Sites transformed into “unwanted”
The method of this “waste mafia” was simple: to offer, via classifieds on Le Bon Coin or Facebook, free delivery of land. But, instead of two or three trucks, some sites turning into “unpacked” saw hundreds of heavy goods vehicles dumping waste from the Nice airport construction sites or the future Pôle Emploi site in Cannes La Bocca.
Companies responded to calls for tenders to remove this rubble from construction sites by offering extremely competitive prices. Then they dumped their load on wild sites, thus exempting themselves from waste treatment costs.
Two owners who had protested were threatened with death. “You do not know our environment. In the construction industry, we solve problems with gunshots”, had launched one of the defendants to the owner of a land on which more than 100 trucks had come on certain days.
“Threats” and “intimidation”
“These are ways of talking between us,” he had justified himself on Tuesday. “It is a language a bit of the street”, added his brother, also warned, for whom “the diggers use a particular language”.
For Steve Herce, lawyer for the Paca branch of the National Union of Quarry and Construction Materials Industries (Unicem), civil party, “we must denounce these practices made of threats, intimidation on owners, pressure on elected officials or even the gendarmes, who were offered to close their eyes and give them money to ensure their retirement “.
The defendants “defend themselves by saying ‘We did not kill anyone’. But yes, they have killed the environment a little,” insisted the lawyer.