French child abduction plot shows global influence of QAnon style :: WRAL.com
PARIS – The old music box factory had been abandoned for years on the outskirts of the Swiss mountain town.
It was the perfect hiding place for the young French mother and her 8-year-old daughter at the heart of Operation Lima, an international child abduction plot planned and funded by a French group with echoes of the far-right movement. QAnon.
Lola Montemaggi had lost custody of her daughter, Mia, to her own mother a few months earlier because the French government’s child welfare services feared the young woman was unstable. But Montemaggi found people online who shared QAnon’s belief that the officials themselves were running a child trafficking ring. She turned to them to do what she needed to do: get Mia out.
The girl’s kidnapping on April 13 marked what would be the first time that conspiracy theorists in Europe have committed a crime linked to the QAnon-style network of false beliefs that sent hundreds of people to storm the Capitol. from the United States on January 6.
QAnon’s influence has now been followed in 85 countries. Some of his loose collection of beliefs is specific to the United States, where the conspiracy theory began. But the belief that there is a deep state conspiracy and government-sponsored child trafficking cabals crosses borders, as has anti-vaccine rhetoric since the start of the pandemic.
Europol, the European police agency, added QAnon to its list of threats in June.
Mia’s kidnapping was inspired by a former politician who vowed to save trafficked victims and bring France back to greatness. Two men accused of kidnapping are also charged – and two others were arrested on Tuesday – in a far-right plot unrelated to vaccination centers and government ministries, a judicial official said on condition of anonymity to discuss of the quick survey.
Montemaggi was released on Monday after nearly six months in prison, but will remain under judicial supervision.
“If someone tries to get their child back and says he’s part of this cabal, there is now a support network where before QAnon he wouldn’t have existed,” said Mia Bloom, who documented the kidnappings. for his book on QAnon.
By the time mobs stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 this year, QAnon had already gained a foothold in Europe, particularly in anti-lockdown protests in Britain and Germany.
In France, Montemaggi’s world was darkening. She concluded that her government was illegitimate and that her laws no longer applied to her, beliefs central to what is called the sovereign citizen movement.
She said she was going to empty her apartment, sell her furniture and “go under the radar with her daughter”. Montemaggi had been losing weight for months, arguing so violently with her boyfriend that her family feared for Mia. Soon after, Montemaggi lost custody.
It was around this time that Rémy Daillet-Wiedemann’s name began to circulate in QAnon’s French chats on Telegram. The former politician, in self-imposed exile in Malaysia, found new audiences for his previously obscure calls to topple the French government, resist the ‘medical dictatorship’ of coronavirus restrictions and protect children from government-linked pedophiles .
The more Daillet-Wiedemann’s theories align with QAnon, the larger its audience. In early spring, a group of his supporters came under the surveillance of French counterterrorism investigators. Around the same time, one of Montemaggi’s Telegram friends advised him to contact Daillet-Wiedemann about his custody issues.
Daillet-Wiedemann had a network of a few hundred followers, with a much smaller “hard core”, according to François Pérain, prosecutor of Nancy, the region’s capital. He asked one of his supporters to come up with a plan for Mia and another child in a similar situation, and wired € 3,000 for transportation and equipment, Pérain said.
Five men, aged 23 to 60, came together in the plot they dubbed “Operation Lima” – an anagram of the names of Lola and Mia. A sixth man, a retired military officer, forged government papers.
The main planner bore the nickname Bouga and was an educator, according to his lawyer, Randall Schwerdorffer. He checked Montemaggi with an online questionnaire before arranging what he considered “a legitimate intervention,” the lawyer said.
On April 13, a gray van entered Les Poulières. Showing official-appearing documents, the two men inside claimed to be performing a welfare check on Mia. The girl’s grandmother allowed them to take her briefly for an interview.
By the time she realized her mistake, Mia was on her way to a nearby village.
There Montemaggi was waiting with the other men. They made a caravan to the Swiss border, then walked east through the woods for several hours, taking turns carrying Mia. When they arrived in Switzerland, another member of the network met them. He took them not to a shelter as planned but to a hotel.
The next day, Daillet-Wiedemann launched a call for shelter to which only one person responded, and for only one night, Pérain said.
By then, anti-terrorism investigators had linked the Poulières van to the clique of Daillet-Wiedemann supporters under surveillance.
Most of the men were arrested in France soon after. None bothered to hide their role or their belief that the kidnapping was in fact a rendition.
“They went from conspiratorial beliefs to very serious acts, and those who took action didn’t necessarily realize they were on the wrong side of the law,” Pérain said.
On April 15, Montemaggi and Mia were taken to the disused music box factory. There was a lack of electricity, running water and beds, but there was something the young mother-turned-kidnapper needed more: isolation.
It took investigators three nights to find them. Montemaggi was arrested for kidnapping. His family declined to comment, as did his lawyer. Mia has reunited with her grandmother.
Daillet-Wiedemann posted a video praising the kidnappers.
“They are heroes. They restore the law. I congratulate them and will do anything to free them, “he said in a YouTube video viewed 30,000 times.
Malaysia expelled him a month later.
He is now in jail for conspiring to organize the organized kidnapping of a child. During his first hearing, Daillet-Wiedemann declared himself a candidate for the presidency, saying that the charges against him are political.
Montemaggi was released on Monday after months of insistence by her family and lawyer that she poses no danger to her daughter or anyone else.
Bram Janssen in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, and Nicolas Vaux-Montagny in Paris contributed to this report.