A scam in which victims say they were hypnotised by a thief using a mysterious ‘black stone’ is spreading across the north of France, but the thefts may be difficult to prove under current law.
Around 30 women in Hauts-de-France have come forward to allege “mental manipulation” in connection with the scam. A lawyer in Lille has been compiling the complaints and is now calling for an inquiry to be opened into the case.
Victims allege that a man approached them in public and handed them a black stone, presented himself as a sort of “medium”, with Eastern, religious and “esoteric” influences, and began reciting mysterious phrases.
One woman from Tourcoing (Nord), who was accosted at a bus stop, said that the man then “asked me to take off all my jewellery, everything I had in my bag, and I gave him everything.”
She said: “I no longer had control over myself. I didn’t even know what I was doing. I blacked out. My feet were stuck. I only woke up afterwards, after about 15 minutes.”
Another woman from Tourcoing, Sonia, in her 60s, told a similar story. She said that a man she did not know approached her in the street, knew personal stories about her, and then handed her a black stone.
She said: “He was telling me stories about my life that no one knew. That is why I stayed, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have.
“I don’t know what he did, but without realising, I went home, got my jewellery, took out money that he asked for, and brought it all back. I was living in slow motion. It was only the morning after, when I woke up, that I realised what had happened.”
The daughter of one victim has called the phenomenon “samawi”. The technique reportedly comes from Morocco. Said thieves usually prey on women of Middle Eastern and/or Muslim origin in their 60s and 70s.
Shame and trauma
Yasmina, the daughter of another victim, told BFMTV: “These women are ashamed. I have met more women this week who told me: ‘This happened to me’, but they dare not speak about it. Neither their children nor their husbands know.”
Some of the victims say they have been left traumatised by the experience.
The lawyer in Lille said: “All of these victims speak of this infamous ‘black stone’ that is placed in the palm of their hand. Now, is there some kind of substance in this stone? Have they been drugged?
“We’ll never know. These women lose all their judgement, even though they are not known for having psychological problems.”
Yasmina has now written a letter to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to alert him to the phenomenon and raise awareness around it.
Another lawyer working on the case, Nora Missaoui-Lefebvre, told BFMTV that the current penal code does have a definition of “theft by deception”. This is punishable by seven years in prison and a fine of up to €100,000.
And yet, the act of theft by hypnosis may be difficult to prove, although Ms Nora Missaoui-Lefebvre states that she believes the victims’ stories.
She said: “If you are asked for something, and you hand it over of your own ‘free will’, then there is no fraudulent removal, so the victims were not believed. However, this [theft] did happen, and it exists.”