Police across several European countries have taken part in a co-ordinated operation to arrest over 40 notorious internet Francophiles.
Operation 'Dans La Merde' has been monitoring the activities of suspected Francophiles for the last 18 months, gathering evidence on a number of ringleaders believed to be responsible for running websites dedicated to the trade in sickening photos of historic French landmarks and idyllic rural scenery.
UK police forces across several counties were involved in the sting operation, supported by members of Interpol and the English Tourist Board.
During one early morning raid on a mobile home near the port of Dover, police captured 3 laptop computers as well as large numbers of CDs, materials for making baguettes and pains au chocolat, wine bottles both full and empty, and what can only be described as a range of soft cheeses.
The owners of the camper van are believed to be a Mr and Mrs Harvey (48 and 45) from Kent, who have a long record of promoting the French lifestyle and who were about to embark on a 3 week trip around Picardy, Normandy and the Loire Valley to seek out likely sites for other Francophiles to set up 2nd homes. Mr & Mrs Harvey were arrested by French police last summer and charged with grooming locals in an attempt to gain their trust before retired middle-class British people inveigled themseleves into their communities.
At a similar site in Felixstowe, another couple were arrested while trying to escape to the relative safety of the supermarkets of Boulogne. Police believe that the couple were involved in an illegal smuggling operation to bring good quality meats and seafood into the UK.
Jenny Taylor, spokeswoman for the ETB said, "This is the most significant operation of its kind in years. We believe that today's operation has made a giant leap towards eradicating these disgusting practices, and will go a long way towards stopping the spread of French culture and quality goods in our country".
The head of the UK police operations, Detective Chief Inspector Ridley said that he was pleased that so much had been achieved but issued a stern warning to anyone who may be thinking of dabbling in Francophile practices. "We are ever vigilant, we can track your every move and we will catch you. There is no room for this kind of repulsive continental behaviour in this country. Frenchiness will not prevail on my watch".
When questioned about reports that several of the main targets of today's raids had evaded capture, DCI Ridley shrugged and said "Pah, C'est la vie".