Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Learning the language of love

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Burkina Faso: Calls for probe into 1998 murder of journalist

Read more

FOCUS

Is this the end of Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Movement'?

Read more

#THE 51%

France marks 40th anniversary of abortion laws

Read more

#TECH 24

Virtual insanity? Artist to 'experience life' through Oculus Rift headset for 28 days

Read more

#TECH 24

What does the future hold... for music?

Read more

ENCORE!

David LaChapelle on ditching celebrity to criticise consumer culture

Read more

REPORTERS

Lebanon's Shebaa, a village caught in the crossfire

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs debate whether to recognise Palestine

Read more

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2012-06-15

France: behind the scenes in the war on Romanian gangs

In Paris, locals and tourists often see young Roma gypsies in the street, near tourist attractions trying to get people to sign "petitions", or distract their attention. But behind these young Roma lies a large-scale trafficking operation.

They arrive early in the morning in front of the Paris Opera, one of the busiest tourist spots in the French capital. But the 20 Roma children brought from Romania are not there to see the sights.

Armed with a notebook bearing the logo of a charity for the deaf and mute, they attempt to persuade passers-by to give them donations. But the charity doesn't exist, and the children aren't deaf or mute. The scam works quite well - some tourists give as much as 10 or 20 euros in notes. But the girls don't keep the money long.

The gang leaders are just a few yards away, keeping a discreet eye on operations. Every half hour, they gather the money collected by the children.

Meanwhile, other groups of children are taken to the very centre of Paris, where they split up along the main boulevards. They walk beside the cafes, snatching iPhones that tourists have left on the outside tables. Again, they use the fake petition as a decoy. One second is enough to distract the unsuspecting tourist, before both phone and children disappear in a flash...

Using a hidden camera, we found the stolen smartphones for sale at a market in a suburb in the east of Paris. A woman offers us the very latest model, normally sold at 800 euros, for 250 euros. It's a lucrative business - according to the police, a child can steal as many as five iPhones a day.

To put an end to this criminal network, 17 Romanian police officers have been assigned to France. They are specialised in fighting this type of trafficking.

We followed them during their investigation and at the police stations in Paris where Roma are arrested every day. This unique partnership between French and Romanian police aims to stamp out the criminal networks which have transformed the Roma children into money-making machines.

By Mirel BRAN

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-11-28 Lebanon

Lebanon's Shebaa, a village caught in the crossfire

It’s just another small Sunni village in southern Lebanon. But Shebaa, a Hezbollah stronghold on the crossroads of Israel and Syria, is now a flashpoint in a spreading war. With...

Read more

2014-11-21 National Front party (France)

France’s National Front in the spotlight

With the National Front on the rise in France, our reporters returned to three towns where the far-right party’s mayoral candidates won the most recent local elections.

Read more

2014-11-14 Somalia

Somaliland: A would-be nation state

In the eyes of the international community, Somaliland is an autonomous region in Somalia, on the Horn of Africa. But most of its 3.5 million inhabitants do not consider the...

Read more

2014-11-07 Liberia

Liberia: The daily threat of Ebola

Liberia is one of the countries most affected by the outbreak of Ebola, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Read more

2014-10-31 Mexico

USA - Mexico: A danger-ridden border

It’s one of the most porous borders in the world. Each month, abetted by smugglers working with drug cartels, thousands of Hispanic immigrants try to cross the frontier between...

Read more