French Riviera Overrun With Organized Crime

Cornish Road, Marseilles, France. From the Library of Congress.

Marseilles has long been considered a hotbed of organized crime, but as The Telegraph reports, mobs from the former Soviet republics are so endemic to Southern France now that detectives in the region “expect an eastern connection to almost every crime.”

Said to control prostitution, money laundering, and burglary, the eastern organized crime figures come from Georgia and Chechnya as often as from Russia. Mobs from both countries tend to have strong military and paramilitary roots because of conflicts in the region, from Georgia’s free-form battle with Russian-supported separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Chechen separatists’ almost twenty-year war against the Russians, in recent years supported by Al Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups.

The Telegraph article quotes French criminologist Alain Bauer as saying, “This is one of the best structured criminal organisations in Europe, with a quasi-military operation.” The eastern groups are said to be involved not just in running prostitution rings in the high-end resort towns of Cannes and St Tropes, but also “gassing tourists in their villa and stealing everything they’ve got.”

The Italian/Sicilian mafia is also alive and well in southern France; 40-year-old Sicilian mob boss Giuseppe Falsone was arrested in Marseilles after ten years on the run from Italian law enforcement. He was said to still be coordinating the Agrigento faction of the Sicilian Mafia.

Sixty-nine reputed Georgian mobsters were arrested in southern France in March.

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