Society

Cocaine, Caviar And Charges Of Rape: A Sordid Tale Of Parisian High Society

The heir to the famous Parisian restaurant “La Maison du Caviar” was famous for over-the-top parties and pretty, sometimes drug-dependent young women. Now, two of them accuse him of rape and torture.

Cyril de Lalagade, heir to Paris' Maison du Caviar (Facebook)
Cyril de Lalagade, heir to Paris' Maison du Caviar (Facebook)
Patricia Joly

PARIS - Cyril de Lalagade is, as they say, a young man, born well. He is the heir to the prestigious Parisian restaurant "La Maison du Caviar," which now has branched out worldwide, and is also the Vice President of Caviar Volga. A successful man whose resume hides a troubled past and a love of wild parties, drugs, sex and pretty women.

Two of those women, Jennifer D., 27, and Inès C. de B. 26, fell for Lalagade, and now accuse him of feeding their drug addiction between 2005 and 2009, in order to subject them to sexual practices that they accepted at first but were later physically incapable of refusing.

Caviar, cocaine and orgies in Paris' rich neighborhoods was the setting for the now 42-year-old's parties where he allegedly committed "rape, torture and barbaric acts' for which he is now standing trial.

Lalagade has long been a familiar face for French narcotics officers. Since 1997, he's been in court regularly for traffic misdemeanors, drug consumption and trafficking. He was arrested in February 2006, and sentenced to three years in prison in 2008 for drug trafficking.

At the time, Lalagade admitted he "took too much cocaine" and "liked pretty women." He did, however, deny giving women drugs to force them to take part in S&M practices. He said that he only knew "easy girls," whom he would invite through text messages for parties "that could last for several days' in luxurious apartments, hotel suites or even his grandmother's property outside of Paris.

"The table is full of it, come on over quickly little sister, we're waiting for you. I'm hung like a horse, come quickly," he once wrote to Inès.

According to several guests – including the son-in-law of a former French minister, film producers, luxury real-estate agents and wannabe starlets accepting occasional prostitution – "freebase," burned cocaine that triggers immediate addiction when inhaled, was available for free.

In exchange for a few lines of coke, Lalagade also had Ketamine delivered by a nurse working in a Parisian hospital. This anesthetic traditionally used on animals, is known for its disinhibitive and aphrodisiac effects, and can easily and discreetly be mixed with cocaine. Witnesses told investigators that Lalagade insisted on having sex with the girls at the end of the parties. Those who refused were dismissed and branded as "useless."

When Cyril met Jennifer in 2004, she was in rehab. According to the young woman, he made her "use" again, putting freebase under her nose. At the time, he already had two partners, who each gave him a child. In 2005, he met Inès, then a model for the famous Elite agency. "He was unstoppable when he took freebase," she told investigators, saying she verbally refused some sexual practices but was physically incapable of fighting back because she was under the influence of drugs.

"I didn't know who I was anymore. I told him I didn't want to do it but he forced her to have anal sex," she told investigators. He also allegedly burned her arms, legs and nipples with a lighter designed to light his freebase pipe.

Grandma gets involved

Odette de Lalagade, Cyril's 89-year-old grandmother, told investigators that all these girls who were once hanging on to her grandson were now attacking him and that it was "sad and pathetic." About Inès, whom she only saw once, she said: "I could immediately tell she was trouble because she was drugged out."

The grandmother even joined forces with the girl's father for a while to try and put an end to their relationship. Until "he decided to send Cyril to prison…"

According to "Minouche" as Cyril calls his grandmother, the young man can be "mean in words but not physically." She brought him up as a little prince after his parents divorced when he was just a baby. His father, an alcoholic, broke all contact with his family. Cyril was a good student in high school but things went downhill when he got to college. He never graduated and was declared unfit for military service after deserting for 2 months.

To get him off the streets, Odette who was running the family business since the death of her husband in 1993, put him on the company's payroll, giving him 7,000 euros a months for very scarce work. His "job" took him to Florida for a while to develop the company's activity of selling caviar and Russian salmon created in 1923 by his grandfather.

In 2000, he made it back to France as a clandestine passenger on the sailboat of a family friend. He had just escaped an FBI drug bust.

A skillful rider, swimmer and skier, he also took part in the famous Le Mans 24 hours car race. With his good looks, Cyril was the cliché of a rich boy, an image that helped him make important friends. He even became an informant for the French narcotics brigade and swears he helped himself to the drugs that were seized.

Irresistable St. Tropez

On a flight from France to the US in 2001, he made another important friend, an assistant prosecutor for a Paris court. The 50-year-old who was going through a divorce at the time found him "endearing, charming, polite with his heart on his sleeve." A year later, Cyril introduced him to his mother, who eventually moved in with the magistrate after the death of Cyril's beloved 19-year-old step-sister in a car crash.

Questioned by investigators back in 2007, the magistrate denied knowing anything about Cyril's offences. But the tape of a very tense phone conversation in July 2006 showed otherwise. Cyril's mother accused him of not doing anything and the magistrate replied that he helped her son "avoid prison." As proof, his promise to organize a lunch, "once the case is settled," with the judge who decided to put Cyril under judicial control.

But Cyril doesn't do well with authority. Under house arrest at night since his 2006 sentence for drug trafficking, he wasn't able to resist escapades to St. Tropez, saying he had to be there for business. He once skipped an appointment with a judge, sending a doctor's note from Megeve, the luxurious ski resort in the French Alps. A psychiatric evaluation in July 2007, while Cyril was in jail, noted a "potential for dangerous behavior," and no sign of regret or guilt.

In April, he met Inès even though he wasn't supposed to contact his accusers. On May 9, the police found the young woman barefoot, hiding in the backstairs of her lover's 400-square-meter apartment on Paris' posh Avenue Foch. Clearly intoxicated, she first said she had voluntarily agreed to meet him. Several days later, once sober, she told investigators that she'd been "set up" by a common friend, who hoped the reunion would prevent her from testifying against Cyril during the trial. Cyril said Inès had spontaneously decided to drop the charges she brought against him originally because of problems in their relationship and the influence of Jennifer's father, a Lebanese businessman who, he says, paid her to press charges.

When Inès' mother found out her daughter was seeing Cyril again, she pressed charges for "abuse of weakness' and "incitement to consume narcotics." Cyril is in detention awaiting trial. On June 4, Inès' mother wrote a letter to the Paris prosecutor denouncing "a real network dedicated to maintaining a state of psychological and physical dependency." The trial, which was set to begin this week, has been postponed until further notice.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo - La Maison Du Caviar's Facebook page

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Future

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.


But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

commons.wikimedia.org

Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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