France
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    Profile

    France

    Capital

    Paris

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 2,715,518.27 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    67,055,854

    Area

    549,087 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    5.67

    Criminality score

    59th of 193 countries

    8th of 44 countries in Europe

    1st of 11 countries in Western Europe

    Criminal market

    5.70

    Human trafficking

    6.00

    Human smuggling

    6.50

    Arms trafficking

    6.00

    Flora crimes

    4.00

    Fauna crimes

    5.50

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    4.50

    Heroin trade

    6.00

    Cocaine trade

    6.50

    Cannabis trade

    6.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    5.50

    Criminal actors

    5.63

    Mafia-style groups

    6.00

    Criminal networks

    6.50

    State-embedded actors

    3.00

    Foreign actors

    7.00

    6.83

    Resilience score

    26th of 193 countries

    19th of 44 countries in Europe

    11th of 11 countries in Western Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    6.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    7.00

    International cooperation

    8.50

    National policies and laws

    7.50

    Judicial system and detention

    6.50

    Law enforcement

    7.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.00

    Anti-money laundering

    8.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    8.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.00

    Prevention

    6.50

    Non-state actors

    7.00

    6.83 5.63 5.70 6.83 5.63 5.70

    6.83

    Resilience score

    26th of 193 countries

    19th of 44 countries in Europe

    11th of 11 countries in Western Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    6.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    7.00

    International cooperation

    8.50

    National policies and laws

    7.50

    Judicial system and detention

    6.50

    Law enforcement

    7.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.00

    Anti-money laundering

    8.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    8.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.00

    Prevention

    6.50

    Non-state actors

    7.00

    Analysis

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    People

    France is a destination country for human trafficking, with victims especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced begging and slavery. Victims primarily are women and girls from Eastern Europe, East and West Africa and some Asian countries trafficked into sexual exploitation, as well as men, women and children forced into domestic servitude and other forms of forced labour. Human trafficking in France is generally also associated with both physical and psychological violence, as well as unlawful confinement. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been cases of trafficked individuals taking on dangerous and degrading work to obtain cash during the lockdowns.

    France is a key transit and destination country for human smuggling. Smuggling activities have increased in northern France, particularly in the port city of Ouistreham in Normandy, since the closure of the migrant camps in Calais. Human smuggling across France’s borders with Italy and Spain, as well as across the English Channel between France and the UK, are also of major concern. Additionally, France’s overseas territories are increasingly being utilized as entry points for human smuggling activities, with Mayotte off the coast of southeastern Africa being the most affected region, followed by French Guiana. Smuggling networks also provide individuals with fake medical certificates and forged documents. Furthermore, there is an overlap between human smuggling, drug trafficking, sex trafficking and weapons trafficking. Since the end of 2018, attempts at irregular migration from Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia across the English Channel have multiplied due to police restraint aimed at preventing migrant camps from emerging near Calais.

    Trade

    There is a steady flow of illicit weapons into and within France, primarily originating from Eastern Europe and the US. Targeted weapon theft contributes to the bulk of illicit weapons in the market, which are mainly bought by actors involved in organized crime, especially drug trafficking. Firearms are also sometimes exchanged for drugs. In 2018, France experienced the largest number of weapon thefts across the EU, in the form of both opportunistic and targeted theft. France continues to experience the worrying trend of weapons entering the country in increasing numbers, especially from the Balkans. Intelligence services highlight that weapons used during the two world wars, as well as weapons originating from the Balkan region, are often utilized to fuel criminal networks. Additionally, access to war weapons, such as AK-47s, enabled terrorist groups to attack civilians in France and also fuelled violence in suburbs where young people have easy access to arms. In mainland France, weapons are sold on both the dark web and the clearnet.

    Environment

    There is little evidence to suggest that a criminal market for flora exists in mainland France. However, imports of illicit African timber by French firms constitute the risk of flora-related crimes given the prevalence of illicit activity in the supply chain. France has also been accused of not doing enough to enforce EU timber regulations. Additionally, French Guiana has seen an increase in logging in early 2020 as illegal miners have taken advantage of the COVID crisis to engage in illegal clearances. In regard to fauna crimes, hundreds of protected species are seized in France every year. The country, and specifically Charles de Gaulle Airport, is considered a major transit and destination hub for the bushmeat market, as there are many direct flights between France and Africa and Asia. In addition to bushmeat, live wild animals are also trafficked into France. Moreover, the country is a major importer of tigers and is among the five largest importers of reptile skins worldwide. Glass eel trafficking has been flagged as an issue involving Asian nationals. Groups involved in fauna trafficking use bribery and corruption to facilitate trans-shipment. In terms of non-renewable resource crimes, France is an important destination country for the criminal market, particularly illegal gold from French Guiana. Illegal gold mining in French Guiana is widespread and related to crime groups, violence and other serious crimes that significantly impact society. Gold trafficking from France to other European countries also takes place. There are numerous instances of metal theft in France. Crime groups target different sectors, and there have been cases of the looting of wind turbines, motorways, football stadiums, cemeteries and railways. Often, foreign groups are involved in such large-scale theft. Overall, non-renewable resource crimes may constitute a major source of financing for mafias and terrorist groups.

    Drugs

    The illegal drug trade in France is dominated by cannabis, as it is the number one drug consumed in France. The market has grown exponentially in recent years and is controlled by a few kingpins. It is difficult to uncover as it is fragmented and transnational. The consumption of marijuana over resin has also grown as older cannabis users seek organic and local products. This phenomenon led to an increase in self-production, which led to criminal networks reorganizing their structures by offering primarily marijuana instead of hash. However, the growing use and production of French and European marijuana did not cause a decline in the traditional Moroccan hash market. France is also a transit and destination country for marijuana. Cannabis from Morocco is transited through Spain to France and then transported to the rest of Europe by car, bus or truck. The cocaine market is the second-largest drug market in France, with it being a destination country for cocaine from South and Central America. There are two primary entry routes for cocaine: the port of Le Havre in the north of the country, and French Guiana, where cocaine is transported by road from Suriname and then flown to Paris by individuals or sent through the mail. Furthermore, France is a transit country for cocaine transported to the UK or the Netherlands. Given the proliferation of cocaine in France, tackling cocaine trafficking, along with cannabis trafficking, has become a main law enforcement priority for authorities.

    Heroin trafficking and consumption are on the rise in France. A decrease in heroin prices has led to an increase in consumption, along with a change from injecting to sniffing and smoking. French networks involved in the heroin trade do not work directly with large production and transit countries, as the majority of small networks buy the drug from neighbouring countries. Traffickers buy heroin in Belgium or the Netherlands before redistributing it across the country. Heroin is mostly produced in Afghanistan, and proceeds from the Afghan sources are reportedly occasionally used to finance terrorism. France’s northern department are affected by the illegal heroin trade due to their proximity to trafficking hubs in the Netherlands. Lille is also a major hub for heroin trafficking in France. With regard to synthetic drugs, France is a transit and destination country for MDMA. The drugs are predominantly produced in Belgium, Luxembourg or the Netherlands. In recent years, new psychoactive substances, mainly produced in Asia, are bought and sold online. Overall, France hosts one of the largest markets in Europe and the synthetic-drug trade is on the rise in the country, especially in festival environments, with the darknet and social media serving as major selling platforms.

    Criminal Actors

    The organized crime landscape in France is dominated by criminal networks with little to no structure. Mapping the activity of small, loose criminal networks, as well as individual criminals, is difficult due to the country’s shift in focus from organized crime towards terrorism in 2015. Nevertheless, criminal networks exist in France and primarily operate in Lille, Paris, Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille and Corsica. These criminal networks are gangs from the suburbs that are involved in drug trafficking, primarily in the cannabis trade, as well as arms trafficking. Meanwhile, French intelligence notes that mafia-style groups in France operate discreetly and are often overlooked, while the scale of their activities is misunderstood. There is reportedly a high rate of mafia infiltration in legitimate bar, restaurant, tourism and hospitality businesses; construction, waste management, low-skilled public and commercial services; and agricultural sectors. These groups tend to be involved in poly-criminality and are often characterised by ethnicity or loyalty to a specific city, and often have links to drug trafficking groups.

    In France, there are signs that cooperation exists between both foreign and local criminal actors involved in money laundering. Foreign mafias are also present in France. Some believe that in addition to geographical proximity, legislative shortcomings in France have facilitated the Italian mafia taking root in France. Nigerian mafias, along with other Eastern European criminal groups that also dominate arms trafficking operations from the Balkan region, control the sexual exploitation market in France. Organized crime groups from Eastern Europe are also active in organized property crime, sexual exploitation, drug trafficking and cyber fraud. Meanwhile, state-embedded actors exist and mostly engage in money laundering, tax evasion and corruption, with many recorded cases occurring in the past 10 years. Furthermore, some politico-financial affairs linking state-embedded actors to criminal activities have transnational components.

    Leadership and governance

    In general, French citizens lack faith in the government, as evidenced by multiple demonstrations and strikes against the government since 2015. Moreover, the French government is threatened by so-called ‘soft corruption’, a series of small arrangements tolerated in practice. Since 2014, the French government has been required to implement national action plans every two years, which focus on transparency, integrity and accountability in public and economic life. France also has two independent authorities that oversee government action. Nevertheless, information access remains poor and France has been called on to reinforce its anti-corruption policies.

    On the international level, France is a state party to all relevant international treaties and conventions pertaining to organized crime. France also has a number of bilateral and multilateral security cooperation agreements and is one of only a few countries that have been and continue to be involved in subregional, regional and global initiatives. As far as international cooperation on mafia-related cases is concerned, however, it was reported in 2016 that exchanging information with France on such cases was difficult. A prime reason for this was the lack of political will, along with the fact that officials were reluctant to recognize the existence of mafia-style groups. On a domestic level, French legislation does not specifically define organized crime. However, the country’s criminal code lists the various offences that constitute organized crime when committed by organized gangs. France also has a law that reinforces the fight against organized crime, terrorism and terrorist financing, and enhances the guarantees of penal procedure.

    Criminal justice and security

    In France, there are eight specialized inter-regional jurisdictions with competences over drug trafficking, organized crime and financial crimes. They are based in Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Paris, Nancy, Rennes and Fort-de-France. In 2019, a new national anti-terrorism prosecution office was also created, as a result of political will to adapt the judicial system to new trends in transnational organized crime. France’s prisons have also been criticized for inhumane detention conditions such as overcrowding, squalor, poor hygiene, absence of privacy and lack of activities, and allegedly run the risk of radicalizing prisoners. With regard to law enforcement, the French police and gendarmerie are in charge of combating organized crime, including drug trafficking, irregular immigration and cybercrime. The national police also has various bodies in charge of the fight against organized crime. In recent years, the relationship between the French police and the population has changed. Despite the fact that the police were deemed trusted heroes after the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, a few months after this there was a shift following numerous reports of police violence during anti-labour reform demonstrations. In 2020, trust in security forces deteriorated even further, with the Ombudsman calling the loss in confidence a crisis. In terms of territorial integrity, with France being part of the Schengen zone, many traffickers have taken advantage of the lack of EU border controls to enter France. Moreover, French territories abroad render the border increasingly porous, as authorities have difficulties containing illicit flows into French Guiana and from there into mainland Europe. Within France, territorial integrity is often compromised in the suburbs of major cities.

    Economic and financial environment

    Overall, the French economy is more regulated than the economies of other EU countries. France has made numerous efforts to reduce regulatory burdens and in 2013, the government launched a radical administrative streamlining and regulatory reform agenda. Nevertheless, France’s economic regulatory environment is highly conducive to business and the size of the informal economy as a percentage of GDP is among the smallest in Europe. France is highly resilient to money laundering and terrorist financing. Its internal anti-money laundering legal and regulatory framework was substantially improved in 2016. Banks and credit institutions, as well as real estate agents, investment and insurance companies, are now subject to strict reporting and due diligence requirements. In 2018, the country also adopted a law to enhance the detection of fraud and strengthen the measures used to tackle tax evasion.

    Civil society and social protection

    France has a department responsible for access to law, justice and victim support. There is also a federation of victim support associations called the French Victim Support and Mediation Institute. However, the country does not have a legal definition for the notion of ‘victim of crime’. France has sustained its efforts to tackle human trafficking, shown by the increase in investigations, convictions and the identification of victims, and the approval of a new anti-human trafficking action plan in 2014. An interministerial mission was also set up for the protection of women against violence and the fight against human trafficking. Funds are allocated for the prevention of prostitution and for the provision of social and professional support to victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Nevertheless, the provision of adequate resources to France’s anti-trafficking committee and the deployment of sufficient efforts to counter labour trafficking remain areas for improvement. At the same time, France is very active in combating and preventing organized crime at European and international levels. It has proposed enhanced security cooperation through the creation of common investigative teams and has engaged with South American nations to tackle the issue of deforestation. Anti-mafia activists in France have also argued that civil society suffers from a low awareness of the organized-crime phenomenon. With regard to the press in France, an increase in harassment and attacks targeting news media and journalists was reported in 2018, mainly at the hands of protesters and riot police during the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests. Along with that, journalists were also increasingly exposed to online harassment by internet trolls, and a great number of lawsuits continue to be brought against investigative journalists. Despite this, however, overall the country maintains a high level of media freedom.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.