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Vast illegal ride-sharing network dismantled in France

Five men have been arrested in western Paris on suspicion of running a vast ride-sharing network that exploited illegal workers as drivers.

Five men are suspected of running two companies, through which they employed hundreds of illegally-working drivers in “a precarious situation” over “very long hours”, said the prosecutor in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine, ‎Île-de-France).

The men have been indicted for allegedly “aiding illegal residence, money laundering, concealing work, receiving stolen goods, human trafficking, forgery, falsifying documents, using false documents, [and] abusing company property...as part of an organised gang”, the prosecutor stated.

Most of the workers involved were allegedly undocumented and were working as illegal ride-sharing drivers. Ride-sharing - or voitures de transport avec chauffeur (VTC) in French - generally refers to taxi apps such as Uber, Kapten, Bolt, or Heetch.

The workers were allegedly forced to “work for very long hours under intense pressure, under employers who kept them in a precarious situation” to force them to obey.

The network has now been dismantled completely. More than €195,000 in cash, and luxury cars, were also seized. The company reportedly had around 50 vehicles.

The prosecutor said: “Initial investigations have shown just how lucrative this trafficking was, generating financial movements of several hundred thousand euros.”

The business had been operating "for at least two years", investigators said.

The bust comes days after ride-sharing drivers’ union l’Union l'Intersyndicale Nationale VTC (INV) called for a strike next month, citing grievances including alleged “fake drivers” using the apps fraudulently.

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