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Visiting France

Paris airport baggage-handlers face trial over thefts worth 176,000 euros

media Security at Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Seventeen baggage-handlers at Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport have been charged with stealing more than 176,000-euros-worth of valuables from the suitcases of more than 3,000 passengers. One had invested 50,000 euros in a restaurant belonging to a relation.

The baggage-handlers, employed by sub-contractors Europe Handling Roissy, had got their technique down to a fine art.

They favoured morning flights heading to foreign countries so that it would be harder for the victims to file complaints, relied on lookouts to minimise the risk of being caught and worked in teams of two to get through check-points more easily.

Between 2008 to 2010 they stole valuables from the luggage of some 3,000 passengers.

One, known to the press as “Karim”, had 80,000 euros in his bank account, another, “Khalid”, invested 50,000 euros in a restaurant belonging to his niece.

This is not the first court case over theft from luggage at Charles De Gaulle airport:

  • In February this year a baggage-handler was found to have more than 250 stolen items, including fashion accessories by Dior and Louboutin and about 20 computers, in his home;
  • Eleven baggage-handlers were arrested last November;
  • Seven customs officers were accused of stealing money from drug-runners in June 2012;
  • Twenty airport workers were arrested for stealing about 750,000-euros-worth of goods in 2011;
  • Twelve baggage-handlers were found guilty of theft in 2008;
  • Nineteen baggage-handlers were arrested for theft of about 5,000 video-recorders and luxury goods in 2006.

Theft has become an almost-everyday affair at airports in Paris and elsewhere, says Caty Richard, a lawyer for one of the defendants.

“It's a combination of three factors,” she says. “For one thing it’s banal because everyone else does it. Plus the luggage is depersonalised - it doesn’t belong to anyone in particular so they see it as just a pile. It's also possible and easy because there are times when they’re alone in the hold.”

It took investigators 16 months to dismantle the team, partly due to the difficulty in finding suitable places to spy on their activities.

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