• A cross-border security exercise was organised in a gravel pit near Strasbourg.
  • About fifty soldiers and police from France, Germany and Switzerland were mobilized.
  • The scenario? Intervene after the sinking of a nine-metre sailboat as part of drug trafficking.

His wetsuit on his back and his nitrox bottle in hand, Pierre-Michel Arcade comes out of the water. The squadron leader of the Franco-German river gendarmerie company has just checked the last details of the exercise. Everything must be ready by 9 am this Thursday morning at the gravel pit of Holtzheim, near Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin).

This is where about fifty soldiers and police from France, Germany and Switzerland met for an extraordinary operation. "A first and a pride," slips the officer, insisting on the cross-border dimension of the maneuver. "The objective is to make technicians work together who are not used to doing it and who will have to satisfy an investigation director in the event of a crisis situation."

The accomplices spotted!

Today's one is considered "plausible" but extremely rare in the area: the sinking of a nine-meter sailboat as part of drug trafficking. Precisely, according to the scenario chosen, two men, "followed for several weeks", told their accomplices "at 4:12 am" that their boat - already buried in this diving spot - was sinking. "The Mayday Mayday message was captured by all stations," says Pierre-Michel Arcade, perfectly in his role.

On the program of the morning, passage of sonars to locate where the boat sank, marking, before several divers intervene on site. All with surveillance of a drone and security and intervention teams "because we fear an underwater operation to recover the cargo and make disappear evidence". Precisely, two men have just been spotted on the north bank of the gravel pit. They try to flee but are arrested, "and now interviewed".

DNA samples underwater

Meanwhile, divers from Baden-Württemberg are already at work at a depth of thirty metres. History to check that the marker placed is in the right place. They are soon relayed by another duo, French this time, who came to "freeze the scene". That is, taking pictures, as it could be practiced on land. In particular, they found two bodies (mannequins eh!) and a handgun.

And now we take out the whole and we analyze on the surface? Not at all. DNA and fingerprint samples are taken in water. "Because if you go up any object, the runoff can make the slightest trace disappear," says an officer, cut off by a thud. It's a helicopter coming! He flies over the area before dropping off one and then two divers. It's a question of training...

"Pablo Escobalt" arrested

Some elements will soon be extracted and analyzed. The boat will remain at the bottom, not far from a small plane that was also emerged for the pleasures of amateur divers. But by the way, where are the narcotics? Cannabis resin was found on board the sailboat, not the bales of herbs. Normal, they floated and were therefore spotted by the team of dronists.

The police now have enough evidence to go and arrest the man at the head of the network, a certain... "Pablo Escobalt"! "He will be arrested at his home," promises Pierre-Michel Arcade, before going to the barbecue. Another large-scale cross-border event.

  • Grand East
  • Gendarmerie
  • Strasbourg
  • Drug trafficking
  • Dive
  • Society