Fifteen tons of nitrous oxide, known as “laughing gas,” have just been seized in the Paris region, a record, French justice said on Monday.
This gas, normally used in the kitchen in whipped cream dispensers or in medicine as an analgesic, has become the object of illicit trade and its sale has been restricted for its euphoric effects, despite the dangers it can pose to the health of consumers.
The last record seizure in France was seven tonnes last January, also in the Paris region, according to an AFP police source.
The investigation began after the refusal of a scooter driver in Hauts-de-Seine, then his arrest by the police, said the prosecutor of Nanterre, the prefecture of that department west of Paris.
According to broadcaster BFMTV, six bottles of nitrous oxide were discovered in the scooter. The driver realizes before investigators that he is delivering nitrous oxide sold through the Snapchat social network and locates the place where he is being delivered in Seine-et-Marne, east of the Paris region.
In a crate, police discovered more than 800 nitrous oxide cylinders, or 2.2 tons of “proto”, a judicial source said. A few days later, “a Dutch delivery driver came to deliver 14 pallets of nitrous oxide cylinders weighing 12 tons”.
The investigations are aimed at “determining the organizers of this mass traffic,” the public prosecutor continued.
“The nitrous oxide trade started in the Paris region in 2019 and has continued to thrive ever since, aided by penalties that are much lower than those for drug trafficking,” he explained.
“Given the serious health risks that (it) poses”, the Nanterre Public Prosecutor’s Office “has decided to prosecute the trade in this gas as a trade in toxic substances, as provided for in the Health Code (5 years imprisonment).
The consumption of “Proto” carries risks such as suffocation, unconsciousness, burns, but also with repeated use and / or in high doses, serious neurological, hematological, psychiatric and cardiac disorders, warns the Interministerial on its website Mission to Combat Drugs and Addictive Behavior.