People, Travel

Pickpockets Face Trial in Paris

Pickpockets Face Trial in ParisPickpockets Face Trial in Paris

Seventeen people went on trial Friday, accused of robbing foreign tourists at Paris’s main attractions, such as Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and Château de Versailles.

Some of the defendants are alleged to have sent over €700,000 of stolen money abroad.

The gang particularly targeted tourists from Asia because of the amount of cash they usually carry, according to RFI.

Masquerading as smart young tourists taking selfies, the gang netted hundreds of thousands of euros by fleecing unsuspecting foreigners at famous sites.

The thefts occurred between 2005 and 2013, and police investigated more than 400 money transfers to Romania for about €700,000.

In August 2012 alone, there were 138 thefts amounting to €138,000.

Facing such a rise in pickpocketing incidents, security guards at the Louvre even went on strike, shutting the museum for a day in April 2013.

When apprehended by security, some of the thieves fought with their captors, ran off or even stripped naked, causing disturbances in the museum.

Police investigations have found that several teams of thieves were operating, often creating diversions, for example by pretending to fight among themselves to distract the tourists’ attention.

Most defendants are Roma and have denied any involvement in organized crime, although police suspect that such links existed.

One couple, who met while pickpocketing the same bag in Rome in 1994, was found to own substantial real-estate assets in Romania.

Another defendant was caught after posting pictures of her baby playing with stolen notes up to €500 on Facebook.

Security guards were also arrested as part of the investigation and one was accused of being part of the gang.

The guard admitted accepting a €10,000 bribe to look the other way, even warning the gang of the whereabouts of his most “efficient” colleagues. But he told the Paris court that he only agreed to help after receiving death threats, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The trial at the Paris Criminal Court is due to last until 11 September.