‘Acrobats’ who robbed moving trucks in France arrested

The alleged thieves are said to have committed the crimes on lorries, while they were still moving, at speeds of up to 90kph

Ten men suspected of robbing €3.5 million worth of goods from lorries travelling at up to 90kph on motorways across France have been arrested, with police calling the thieves “acrobats and artists”.

The men, who are originally from Romania, are suspected of committing 21 raids overnight, and coordinating organised theft from moving HGVs, even as the drivers continued to drive - oblivious to the crimes - at high speed on motorways in several regions in France.

These include Centre-Val de Loire, Picardie, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Île-de-France.

Police called the alleged criminals “real acrobats”, who stole products including sought-after cosmetics, tobacco, and multimedia goods, up to an estimated value of €3.5 million.

According to the gendarmerie investigating the case, it is the first time the technique has been caught in France, although it is known to be in use in the Netherlands.

The method sees the criminal gang follow the lorry from its warehouse, and continue unseen behind it, to the motorway. The criminal vehicle then stays close behind the lorry - matching its speed - with one person continuing to drive and another leading the theft.

Captain Romaric Leclerc, of the crime unit l’Office Central de Lutte contre la Délinquance Itinérante (OCLDI), explained: “One of the criminals would then get out [of the car] through a sunroof or hatch, climb on the car bonnet, and from there, break the locks on the lorry’s rear door, before climbing aboard the lorry and stealing the goods by passing them out to the other vehicle. All of this at 90 kph, at night.

“They are real acrobats. Even we struggled to believe it.”

The gang has now been arrested after an investigation that began in the spring of 2018, after a theft was detected by the OCLDI. The case was also assisted by the gendarmerie du Loiret and investigators in Orléans.

The alleged criminals were reportedly caught “red handed” by gendarmerie, on the A10 motorway.

Cpt Leclerc added: “What is so surprising is that no-one noticed the situation. Out of the 21 reports that we have, at no moment did the drivers realise what was happening behind their lorry. It was happening in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3am.

“We recognise that it would take a certain amount of courage and self-sacrifice to do it. [They are] real artists.”

The 10 suspects have now been questioned and jailed, and are being investigated further, with their case considered to be “organised crime”.

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