Small, thin, often wearing bright clothing like green pants or a pink scarf, the men are prostitutes, looking for work or waiting for prearranged rendezvous. ... Some are as young as 14, though they insist they are older; some are 16 and married, sometimes with children. ... He and his friends, like Bogdan, 17, and Gutsa, 17, whose wife is pregnant, “do business” at the station, he said;
Roma gypsy gang sold their women for stealing skills and children were used like conscripts in a criminal army, French court told at start trial
Young wives with good looks and stealing skills were traded for £170,000
Police discovered the 'criminal army' through phone tapping
Defendants argue it was illegal intrusion into normal Roma dowry system
The scary word is "normal."
27 people charged are accused of committing 100 robberies in 2011 alone
Offences were carried out in France, Belgium and parts of Germany
Suspected gang leader, a 66-year-old woman to be tried separately
By PETER ALLEN IN PARIS
Children as young as 10 were part of a ‘criminal army’ of Roma immigrants which included 13-year-old wives ‘bought’ for up to 170,000 pounds each, a court heard today.
Details of the sinister network emerged during the trial of 27 men and women aged between 19 and 55 in Nancy, eastern France.
All face up to 10 years in prison after being accused of a wide range of crimes, ranging from robbery to people trafficking.
The case began on the day that France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius declared Romania and Bulgaria should not be allowed into the passport-free Schengen zone due to security fears.
Ultimately run by a 66-year-old woman, the network expected boys and girls to bring in at least 4000 pounds a month through robbing people in the street or in their homes.
It comes as Britain braces itself for an influx of Roma from Bulgaria and Romania when EU labour restrictions are eased next year.
Gilles Weintz, the detective who led the enquiry into the France-based ring, said all those involved were Roma originally from Croatia.
... Male leaders ‘bought young wives’ for the cash equivalent of up to £170,000 each from other families in Croatia, and selected them especially for their stealing skills.
‘The better they were at stealing, the higher the price was,’ said Mr Weintz.
‘Young looking women also commanded higher prices because they had a better chance of passing themselves off as minors.
‘The burglaries were carried out daily all over Europe,’ he added. ‘They never stopped - for the children it was like a form of military service.’
Those running the ring were monitored via tapped phones which revealed a ‘mafia style’ network, with those in charge using their stolen money to buy upmarket properties in Slavonski Brod in Croatia.
... The officer cited the case of a woman identified as Nathalie who had been bought but failed to live up to expectations by bringing in 'only' 200,000 euros over two years. ...
Her family was allegedly ordered to pay back 100,000 euros but the amount was finally reduced to 55,000 to take into account the sexual abuse she had suffered. ...
All argue that their complicated financial transactions were based on traditional Roma dowry arrangements, and that the phone tapping was illegal.
And now we finally get to the boring NYT lede-type stuff:
Defence lawyer Alain Behr also said the current anti-Roma feeling in France meant they could not get a fair trial.
‘I hope there will not be a judicial stigmatisation as there is currently a political stigmatisation,’ said Mr Behr.
Speaking on France Inter radio today, foreign minister Laurent Fabius said France is not in favour of allowing Romania and Bulgaria into Europe's passport-free Schengen zone for now due to concerns about border security.
He said: 'If there is not a change in conditions, we won't be in favour.' ...
Romanian and Bulgarian citizens currently have the right to travel with a passport throughout the Schengen zone, which removes border controls among most EU countries as well as non-members such as Switzerland and Norway. ...
Fabius fears lax immigration laws in those countries could mean any nationality could gain French access.
... Last week, Interior Minister Manuel Valls caused uproar in the left-wing governing coalition by saying most immigrant Roma could not be integrated into society and should go home.
The far-right National Front has made the issue a top campaign theme for March's municipal elections, warning of a new influx of immigrants if Romanian and Bulgarian citizens are allowed to travel freely without passports in the Schengen zone.