The Aviation Club de France (ACF) in Paris has been raided by police, and its owner Marcel Francisci arrested along with 11 others, the French press has reported. Officers of the Races and Games Division of the National Judicial Police swooped on the grand old poker club on the Champs-Elysee in Paris at 6am on Tuesday morning, when about 50 customers were still frequenting the club.
Eight employees of the ACF were taken into custody at the premises, while another three, including Francisci, were arrested elsewhere. French authorities offered little detail on the matter other than that the raid was the result of 17 months of investigation and had been authorized by the Grand Instance Court in Paris. Charges include facilitating black market employment and money laundering, they said.
Marcel Francisci took over the running of the ACF in 1998 from his father Roland Francisci, a Corsican businessman, politician and friend of Jacques Chirac, who made his fortune from gaming. Francisci the younger, 45, is senior vice-president of the General Council of the Corse-du-Sud, territorial adviser Gather group for Corsica, head of the Departmental Federation of the UMP, and President of the Association Friends of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Despite the family’s establishment respectability, Marcel’s uncle and namesake, the brother of Roland, was a French gambling kingpin and an alleged godfather of the Corsican Mafia, and is accused of playing a major role in the “French Connection,” the name given to the heroin-trafficking operation between Marseilles and New York City.
The news of the raid will come as a shock to the poker community; the ACF is one of the best known poker venues in Europe and the “spiritual home” of poker in France. Its flagship festival, theÂ Euro Finals of Poker, which this year was renamed the Paris Open of Poker, is a month-long poker extravaganza, and one of the longest-running in Europe.
Aviation Club de France: A Grand Old Club
Situated on one of the world’s most famous thoroughfares, the ACF was founded in 1907 as a private gambling club by a group of gentleman aviators, at a time when aviation itself was only a few years old, and it opened its doors to the public as a casino in 1925. Poker was introduced in 1995, and many of the clubs innovations and achievements were implemented under the management of poker player Bruno Fitoussi.
Fitoussi created the Euro Finals of Poker, opened up the doors of the ACF to the TV cameras for the first ever season of the World Poker Tour and is widely credited with being the man who brought Texas Hold’em to France. His efforts to promote the game of poker are so highly respected, in fact, that Fitoussi is currently one of this year’s candidates to be elected into the Poker Hall of Fame.