Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

South Africa : 20 children killed in a bus crash near Pretoria

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

An Election in the Shadow of Terror

Read more

#TECH 24

How fintech is helping the unbanked

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Turning up the heat with French firefighters

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Champs-Elysées attack: What impact on Sunday's French election? (part 1)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

After Brexit and Trump: World waits on French presidential election (part 2)

Read more

REPORTERS

Battle to stop nuclear waste being buried in a French village

Read more

THE CAMPAIGN BEAT

After Champs-Élysées attack, security takes centre stage in election campaign

Read more

PEOPLE & PROFIT

Brexit: Come what May

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. And you can watch it online as early as Friday.

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

2017-04-21 France

Battle to stop nuclear waste being buried in a French village

The village of Bure, in eastern France, has become a battleground for environmentalists. It has been chosen as a site to bury radioactive waste, 500 metres underground. An...

Read more

2017-04-14 France

How sick are French hospitals?

Doctors, nurses, nursing aides, executives and even managers… They chose to work in public hospitals to be able to treat people from all walks of life – from the homeless to...

Read more

2017-04-07 French Presidential Elections 2017

Disillusioned French voters speak out ahead of elections

Back in 2012, we went to meet French voters from all walks of life who told us of their hopes and fears. We met Fabrice, a factory worker; Ahdijah, a social worker; Lionel, a...

Read more

2017-03-31 Holocaust

Video: 'If I ever come back', a French schoolgirl's letters from the Holocaust

"If I ever come back" tells the tragic story of Louise Pikovsky, a French schoolgirl who was deported and died at Auschwitz. Using long-forgotten letters Louise wrote to her...

Read more

2017-03-23 Europe

Video: Crimean dissidents silenced by Moscow

Three years after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Russia has deployed all the tools at its disposal, in the police and the justice system, to silence...

Read more