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SPORTS | 23-03-2022 14:24

Police arrest suspected killers of ex-Pumas rugby star Federico Martín Aramburú

Ex-Argentina star was killed last Saturday after he and friends became embroiled in dispute at a café in Paris.

Police have arrested the two men suspected of gunning down the former Pumas rugby player Federico Martín Aramburú in Paris, one of whom was trying to flee to Ukraine, authorities said Wednesday.

Aramburú, 42, was killed early Saturday after he and some friends got embroiled in a dispute with another group at a café in the French capital's chic Saint-Germain neighbourhood.

After leaving the café, the two men are believed to have returned and fired several shots from a car at the ex-Argentina rugby union star, who died at the scene.

A 24-year-old woman accused of driving the car was detained on Saturday, and the other suspects, both members of a French far-right group with a history of violence, were taken into custody Wednesday.

Loïk Le Priol, a 27-year-old former marine commando, was arrested overnight at the Hungarian border post of Zahony, where he claimed "he was going to Ukraine to fight" against Russia's invasion of the country, Hungarian police said in a statement.

Officers found three knives in his car. He is to be turned over to French police in the coming days.

The second suspect, 31-year-old Romain Bouvier, was found in Sablé-sur-Sarthe, a small town in western France near Le Mans.

The two men, both members of the GUD white nationalist group, were already due in court in June on charges of beating up a former GUD activist. A video of the beating was obtained by investigative journalism website Mediapart.

The French Navy told AFP that Le Priol participated in French military operations in Mali and Djibouti but was repatriated to France in 2015 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and was later discharged because of violent behaviour.

 

'Clearly unstable'

A structured far-right student group from the late 1960s to the 80s, the GUD has shrunk to something more like a "gang... about 10 people" said Jean-Yves Camus, a political scientist specialising in the far right.

French weekly Marianne reported that Le Priol had already been convicted twice for assault, and once for drunk driving.

In 2016, Le Priol launched a line of white nationalist clothing.

"Everyone who knew Loïk thought he had calmed down... last time I saw him in Paris, he had a girlfriend, life plans, [he] seemed peaceful. We were happy that 'he was doing better'," YouTuber Julien Rochedy, who posed with one of the T-shirts, wrote on Twitter.

But Camus said that "the extraordinary thing about the Le Priol case is that he was known for a long time as an individual capable of unrestrained violence.

"He was known to be especially impossible to control, including with his own buddies.... Why did the military allow someone to join who was clearly unstable?" he asked.

 

'Unspeakable pain'

Aramburú played as a centre or wing, winning 22 Argentina caps including at the 2007 World Cup in France, where he scored a try as the Pumas beat the hosts in the third-place play-off.

He played club rugby in France for Biarritz, Perpignan and Dax from 2004 to 2010, winning the Top 14 twice with Biarritz and later sitting on the club's board of directors.  

"There was an altercation, as there can be at the end of the evening," a former Biarritz Olympique player who was with him told AFP on condition of anonymity. "It was settled but the men came back and fired at Aramburú, who took three bullets." 

Since his retirement from sport, Aramburú had lived in Biarritz and worked for a tourism company.

"This heinous crime and his death have left his family, friends and the world of rugby stunned and in unspeakable pain," a lawyer for Aramburú's family, Yann Le Bras, said in a statement on Sunday.

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by by Sylvie Maligorne with Peter Murphy, AFP

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