Organised Crime: French Countryside Targetted

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Confidential report details the explosion in activity of Eastern European Mafiosi in rural and outlying areas of France

According to a recent report in French daily Le Figaro, a leaked document from the French Gendarmerie details the contribution of the French security forces to the French anti-organised-crime division Sirasco. The confidential dossier lists case after case up and down the country, presenting a worrying vista of an explosion in the number of criminal incidents in rural and outlying areas, where the Gendarmerie looks after policing (as opposed to the case in larger towns where a local police force is paid for by local taxes).

The first noticeable pattern is that the same national groupings seem to be involved time and again: “criminal groups originating from the Balkans”, “Bosnian-Serb”, “ethnic Albanians”, “Romanians”, “Russian-speaking”, “Lithuanians” and “Georgians” are amongst the most frequently-occurring references in these reports. No French region is unaffected by this crime wave that has seemed to be operating under the radar up to now, with the exception of Corsica and the overseas departments in the Caribbean. In both these areas, the influence of local crime bosses supersedes that of the foreign crooks.

In Paris, the scale of implantation of these foreign criminal organisations is somewhat limited but it is in the more rural parts of France that they have a more “sustainable presence”, which is to say that they are “capable of recruiting, of adapting themselves and controlling a small part of the territory or of a criminal niche.”

The striking thing about the report is the level of money involved by criminal activity in the countryside, as if crime on a grand scale was no longer the preserve of the Parisian police sleuths.

An estimated one million euros was involved after the dismantling on the 10th of February last of a gang of wrong-doers – most of whom came from what they referred to as the communauté des gens du voyage (traveller community) – who were experts in the theft of valuable wines in the Gironde region.

Another million euros at the end of 2013, were seized in a case against a gang of metal thieves in Lyon. A million euros too was involved in an operation brought to an end around the same time involving a prostitution ring of 200 girls in the Chambéry area. Six million euros for an Asian criminal gang who were experts in cyber-fraud involving bank cards, who were brought to book in February 2013 in Toulouse. And a seven-million-euro illegal drug operation was dismantled by law agencies in Pau and Poitiers in January 2013.

While the arrests and the millions seized continue, the crime wave is also on the rise in the rural areas. The gendarmes note in particular “a significant rise in the number of attacks on ATMs by means of a gaseous mixture.” These attacks, they say, have a “high rate of success.”

There’s also the explosion of scams on a large scale, with gangs coming up with new ways of milking large sums of money in an ever more inventive manner. The report talks about “the emergence of new modes of operation, excise-duty scams on alcohol in transit, such as those mentioned by the Lille branch, and the life-assurance scam based on false transfer orders orchestrated by Israeli criminals constitute major threats for the coming year. It is similarly so with the rise in the illegal traffic of arms linked to the rise in banditry in housing estates and of supply to collectors.”

Analysts note that “A significant point is the contrast between a criminal set-up using sophisticated structures to carry out targeted operations (such as the theft of freight or agricultural machinery) and a criminal set-up based on multiple infractions (such as burglaries, shoplifting or pickpocketing), that are less demanding in terms of qualifications of their ’employees’.”

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