A French police chief in charge of preventing migrants crossing the Channel has been “absent” for 14 years while he spends time golfing and swimming, according to a damning internal report.
Luc-Noël Larcher, commander of riot police unit CRS 4, was able to remain in “fictitious employment” since 2009 while his second-in-command held the fort so he could “have free reign to get on with other activities”, the report stated.
CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité) 4 is a mobile police unit whose barracks are in the Château de Pomponne, east of Paris, but which is often sent to the northern French coast to help crack down on migrants seeking to reach the UK on small boats.
The report by the Central Directorate of the CRS (DCCRS) seen by Le Parisien found that Mr Larcher hardly ever showed up at the office, let alone on missions to Calais. Instead, he got staff to ferry his mail to his house 10 kilometres down the road from the barracks and received the odd text message from his deputy, the report said.
While colleagues got on with the work, he spent most of his time enjoying his “passion for golf, which he practices daily,” CRS investigators are cited as saying. As a result, many colleagues didn’t even know what he looked like. When he did travel to the northern French port, when his company was sent there, he stayed in a separate hotel from his colleagues.
Inspectors found that he “spends his mornings in his room, starts the day at noon, possibly carries out some administrative tasks, then devotes almost all of his afternoons to playing golf or swimming in the pool. And this continues until the end of the week.”
Only one mobile unit paid for by UK funds
In March, Britain pledged to fund an extra 500 new officers patrolling French beaches as part of a £500 million three-year Anglo-French deal to crack down on migrant crossings. On Tuesday, however, the regional state Nord-Hauts de France prefecture confirmed that to date the only mobile unit paid for by UK funds is a gendarme squadron that patrols the Calais area.
“France pays alone for the other mobile units…engaged in the area”, including CRS ones which answer to the national police, it told the Telegraph.
Mr Larcher would also drive home using his police vehicle at the drop of a hat, racking up 45,651km in the space of a year between January 2022 and February 2023 at a cost of €7,774, not to mention 158 motorway toll payments for such allegedly private trips, the report said.
Inspectors also allegedly found that he had used police meals, sent via a police refrigerated lorry, for his son’s engagement party. There was no suggestion in the report that Mr Larcher’s son was involved in any wrongdoing.
Despite remaining at home, Mr Larcher also claimed a special “temporary absence” bonus for CRS on missions and registered for “fictitious” overtime, illegally claiming 440 extra hours in 2021 alone, along with 52 undue “rest days”, said the report.
‘Response should be well and truly severe’
The prosecutor of Meaux has launched a preliminary investigation into suspected abuse of public funds and violation of professional secrets, handed over to the police’s internal investigation unit, IGPN.
“If these acts were proven, it would be unacceptable and the response should be well and truly severe,” prosecutor Jean-Baptiste Bladier told France Info.
Mr Larcher was allegedly able to go undetected for so long thanks to a “court” of “devoted, even subservient” colleagues, the report is cited as saying. The result was a “veritable mafia that reigned via a regime of terror” that prompted a “haemorrhage” of departures.
On the rare occasions when he did turn up he clearly lacked the “technical expertise” to carry out the job and was viewed as “an officer who is afraid of maintaining order” by colleagues, the report is cited as saying.
His second-in-command, Sylvain Le Bourbasquet, who inspectors slammed for serious ethical breaches via comments “of an anti-Semitic, sexist and racist nature”, eventually grew tired of allegedly covering for his boss, leading to the probe.
Speaking to France Info, Jean-Christophe Yaèche, Mr Larcher’s lawyer, said he had been on “sick leave” for several weeks and could not comment on the case due to the fact that he didn’t know the details and was “bound by a duty of reserve” in the force.
His client, he added, ”has never had any problems in his duties, has always been well rated by his superiors, and even decorated with the Order of Merit”.
His entourage told Le Parisien that he was suffering from “burnout” and alleged that he himself had been the victim of harassment on the part of his deputy who had created a “parallel hierarchy” that had cut him out.
Mr Bourbasquet is yet to publicly respond to the claims made in the report.