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Pickpocket gang faces trial over robberies at Paris tourist sites
Seventeen people went on trial Friday, accused of robbing foreign tourists at Paris's main attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Château de Versailles. Some of the defendants are alleged to have sent over 700,000 euros of stolen money abroad.
The gang particularly targeted tourists from Asia because of the amount of cash they usually carry.
The thefts occurred between 2005 and 2013 and police investigated more than 400 money transfers to Romania for about 700,000 euros.
In August 2012 alone there were 138 thefts of a total of about 138,000 euros.
Facing such a rise in pickpocketing incidents, security guards at the Louvre even went on strike, shutting the museum for a day in April 2013.
When apprehended by security, some of the thieves fought with their captors, ran off or even stripped naked, causing disturbances in the museum.
Police investigations have found that several teams of thieves were operating, often creating diversions, for example by pretending to fight among themselves to distract the tourists' attention.
Most of defendants are Roma and have denied any involvement in organised crime, although police suspect that such links existed.
One couple, who met while pickpocketing the same bag in Rome in 1994, was found to own substantial real estate assets in Romania.
Another defendant was caught after posting pictures of her baby playing with stolen notes up to 500 euros on Facebook.
Security guards were also arrested as part of the investigation and one was accused of being part of the gang.
Although he accused the Roma of threatening to kill him, he has conceded that he received 10,000 euros from the thefts.
The trial at the Paris criminal court is due to last until 11 September.