A private jet carrying a group of super-rich Brits was sent back to the UK after flouting lockdown measures in a bid to visit a luxury villa in southern France.

The group, made up of seven men in their 40s and 50s and three women in their 20s had arranged travel from London to Cannes - landing their private jet at Marseille-Provence airport before trying to access their villa by helicopter.

However the rich holiday makers were stopped in their tracks and intercepted by police during their journey on Saturday.

The organiser of the trip – a Croatian national working in banking and estate agency in the UK – had booked the jet and helicopters to take everybody to the rented villa.

A police source told the BFM news outlet: "They had planned to come and have a good time on the Riviera despite the coronavirus epidemic.

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The group had planned a luxury break at a villa in Cannes

"Everything had been planned by the organiser of the trip – a Croatian national who works in finance and real estate – starting with the London-Marseille trip in a private jet that he had rented on the other side of the Channel.

"He then booked a luxury villa in Cannes. To get there, the man had reserved three helicopters from a company in the Var which provides private connections for privileged customers."

Commercial flights are greatly reduced at airports across Europe at the moment, and the authorities are trying to stop private jets breaking restrictions.

The source reported that police guarding the "borders of Marseille-Provence airport asked the private jet not to come and land on its tarmac."

But the plane still landed anyway, and the passengers, aged between between 24 and 27 years for the women, and 40 and 50 for the men, were not allowed to get off the aircraft.

The group, made up of seven men in their 40s and 50s and three women in their 20s, were sent home

"Controlled by the border police and the gendarmerie of air transport, none had valid reasons for traveling," said the source.

"Crossing borders is only allowed with a legitimate or compelling reason," he added.

As well as Croatian, the ten travellers were German, French, Romanian and Ukrainian, said the source.

They initially argued with police, and expressed anger when three helicopters waiting for them were ordered to leave empty, and their pilots fined for breaking lockdown restrictions.

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Coronavirus outbreak

Nine members of the holiday party returned to London by the private jet on Saturday evening, while the tenth went back to Germany.

France's coronavirus death toll rose to 12,210 on Thursday, and there are now 7,062 people in intensive care units at hospitals across the country.

France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic, with only essential trips allowed that must be justified with a signed piece of paper.

Health director Jérôme Salomon said the lockdown was working: ‘Thanks to these measures, we are in the process of putting the brakes on the epidemic.’

The lockdown, which was supposed to run until April 15, will be extended beyond that date, it was announced on Wednesday.

President Emmanuel Macron will discuss the coronavirus situation in a live TV address to the nation on Monday.