Former All Black Ali Williams, James O'Connor charged after cocaine arrest

Ex-All Black has reportedly been arrested in Paris for allegedly trying to buy cocaine. New Zealand Herald photograph by Brett Phibbs
Ex-All Black has reportedly been arrested in Paris for allegedly trying to buy cocaine. New Zealand Herald photograph by Brett Phibbs

Former All Blacks lock Ali Williams and Australian international James O'Connor have been charged by French police after being arrested for cocaine possession in Paris at the weekend.

Williams has been charged with buying the drug, while O'Connor faces charges of possession. Both were tested and while Williams' results reportedly came back negative, O'Connor was allegedly found to have cocaine in his system.

The pair were reportedly arrested outside a nightclub near the Arc de Triomphe, in central Paris. Williams is based there, after coming out of retirement to play for Racing 92 this season.

French correspondent Catherine Field told Newstalk ZB's Rachel Smalley that the case is now with the state prosecutor, who will decide whether to make an example of Williams and O'Connor.

"[The prosecutor] will now decide whether this will be a case that will be fast-tracked through the courts, because it was such a small amount and for personal use, or whether it will be a larger court appearance, simply because both Williams and O'Connor are public names here in France, and are seen as role models for lots of people," said Field.

"French law does not make any distinction between the different types of drugs. As far as French law is concerned, it's just as bad, whether you have got cannabis, cocaine or heroine.

"It doesn't distinguish, either, between personal use or trafficking. The only place that comes into play is when the sentence is handed down."

At the bottom end of the scale, culprits might be required to attend a drug awareness course or perhaps a year in prison, plus a small fine.

"On the other hand, and this might come into play in this case, the French legel system actually has a special case where, if you are caught with these drugs in a public place, then your fine gets larger and so does everything that comes with it," said Field.

"The police have been cracking down in the last five years on these types of drugs, particularly in nightclubs, so they may decide to go for the bigger one, which is the possibility of five years in prison and the much bigger fine of $NZ110,000."

French authorities are fighting a war against drugs, with cocaine use having increased 50% over the past five years.

"France recognises that it's a transit country," said Field. "A lot of these drugs come up through the Mediterranean and pass through France to be used in the Netherlands, where its traded sometimes quite freely.

"So the French authorities have come under a lot of pressure from people within community groups to crack down on these places, like high-end nightclubs, where cocaine is easily purchased."

Field also warned that Williams' arrest goes against the wholesome family image of Racing 92, which has already suffered the embarrassment of Dan Carter's drink-driving case in recent weeks.

Racing issued a statement over the weekend, suspending Williams indefinitely.

- NZ Herald

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