Article: Trial involving former French mayor exposes drug dealers’ hold on small towns

A small-town French mayor and her deputy are to face trial for complicity in drug trafficking in a case that shows the extent to which drug barons hold sway over some rural communities.

Bogged down in procedural issues since 27 May, the trial in the Paris suburb of Bobigny has been suspended until Monday.

The Seine-Saint-Denis Criminal Court has been thwarted by demands from defence lawyers that have prevented any examination of the facts against 19 defendants.

Among them is the former mayor and deputy mayor of the small town of Canteleu. They’re appearing in connection with a major cocaine, heroin and cannabis trafficking ring – suspected of being run by France’s feared Meziani family.

Police say that Canteleu, a working-class town of 14,000 people in Normandy, has been the centre of a vast drug trafficking operation for some 15 years.

The landmark case has shed light on the influence of drug dealing on a massive scale in a small municipality.

Former Canteleu mayor Mélanie Boulanger, 47, denies involvement.

Elected mayor in 2014, Boulanger is a leading Socialist figure in Normandy politics. She is suspected of having pressured police not to interfere with business involving the Meziani clan, which reportedly controls the town with a reign of terror.

Millions of euros in profit

The Meziani family allegedly threatened and manipulated the mayor – via her deputy Hasbi Colak – who has also been prosecuted.

In a bugged telephone conversation, one of the brothers threatened to set the municipality on fire, while also offering to guarantee her re-election and maintain law and order in Canteleu if she performed the services he requested.

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