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British drug smuggling suspect held

Thai police have arrested an Englishman who French police accuse of masterminding a gang that sought to smuggle cocaine and heroin through France into England six years ago.

Michael Alan France, 53, was arrested in the seaside resort town of Cha-Am, where he had purchased a luxury apartment after fleeing to Thailand in 2008, immigration police chief Lt Gen Panu Kerdlarppol said.

He said France fled after customs officers in northern France arrested a group of Englishmen with 28.55 kilograms (57.1 pounds) of cocaine and 95.11 kilograms (43.23 pounds) of heroin in their car.

French authorities said the suspect had hired the men to smuggle several shipments of drugs.

France said at a police news conference that he had been unaware of the allegations against him.

France was arrested based on information from French law enforcement officials through the country's embassy in Thailand.

An investigation by French authorities determined that the gang, whose members were paid £3,700-£10,000 per shipment, had been active for 18 months and smuggled 375 kilograms of drugs in all.

Lt Gen Panu said France would be interrogated and his case forwarded to Thai prosecutors for further action.

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