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French surfer faked disappearance to flee debts

BAYONNE, France, March 21 (AFP) – A 28-year-old French surfer who faked his disappearance last month to escape mounting debts is to appear before a court here Monday.

Thomas Blanchard risks up to two years in prison and a EUR 30,000 (USD 37,000) fine for phoning in the missing report February 11 then pretending to be someone else when authorities launched a big air and sea search off France’s Atlantic coast based on his information.

It was only the next day, when he realised the magnitude of the search he had triggered, that he called his worried parents to tell them what happened.

France’s coastguard, which had scrambled two helicopters and three ships while police and firemen searched the shoreline, has sued him for the cost of the rescue operation.

Blanchard’s lawyer said the surfer had staged his disappearance because of loans amounting to around EUR 45,000 and “personal problems”.


                                                              Subject: France news