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Paris pickpocket leaders arrested

Police arrest 19 in connection with gang believed to be behind two thirds of thefts on Paris metro

1 December 2010

POLICE have arrested 19 people believed to be the ringleaders in a major pickpocketing operation on the Paris public transport network.

Authorities say the gang is responsible for about two thirds of thefts on the metro and has netted at least €1.3m.

The Paris police judiciaire has been working with Spanish and Italian authorities for the past three years to track down the leaders, who recruited 100 young girls from eastern Europe.

The alleged head of the network, a 58-year-old man, was arrested yesterday in Italy with his two sons. French police made arrests in Montpellier, Perpignan and Aix-en-Provence.

Investigators believe the girls were threatened with violence if they failed to reach their daily targets, typically between €300 and €1,000.

The pickpockets targeted metro lines 1 and 4, and the main stretch of pavement from the Champ-de-Mars-Bir Hakeim metro and RER station to the Eiffel Tower.

When stopped by police, they all give the same surname, Hamidovic, and claim they are 12 years old and therefore too young to be placed in police custody.

Photo: Serge Melki/flickr

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