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PARIS

French police arrest three Eiffel Tower tourist scammers

French police arrested three people on Friday accused of tricking unsuspecting tourists into playing a rigged shell game at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, a police source told AFP.

French police arrest three Eiffel Tower tourist scammers
Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP

The two men and a woman, originally from Romania, were arrested in the northeastern Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis following a months-long investigation.

Police seized more than €16,000 in cash, three luxury cars, foreign currency and money transfer slips, the source said.

They suspect the three of deceiving tourists into betting on a shell game – where the victim tries to guess which cup hides a ball – with the promise of winning significant amounts of cash if successful.

READ ALSO The sneaky tricks Paris thieves use to take your money

The tourist is lured in by fake players, and never wins.

“The entry ticket was €50 and each table could earn up to €1,000 an hour,” the source said.

The investigation led by the Paris police prefecture’s illegal immigration unit began in October 2021.

Investigators identified about forty fake players and lookouts involved with half a dozen tables, the source added. All of them were from Romania.

In recent weeks, French police have conducted several operations to fight against scams or irregular street vendors, as tourists flock back to the City of Light with the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most famous buildings and welcomes some seven million visitors a year.

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CRIME

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

A French court on Thursday convicted eight men for the theft and handling of a Banksy painting paying homage to the victims of the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

French court convicts 8 for stealing Banksy from Paris terror attack site

Three men in their 30s who admitted to the 2019 theft were given prison sentences, one of four years and two of three, although they will be able to serve them wearing electronic tracking bracelets rather than behind bars.

Another man, a 41-year-old millionaire lottery winner and street art fan accused of being the mastermind of the heist, was given three years in jail for handling stolen goods after judges found the main allegation unproven. His sentence will also be served with a bracelet.

Elsewhere in the capital, the defence was making its final arguments in the trial of the surviving suspects in the 2015 Paris attacks themselves, with a verdict expected on June 29.

‘Acted like vultures’ 

British street artist Banksy painted his “sad girl” stencil on the metal door of the Bataclan in memory of the 90 people killed there on November 13th, 2015.

A white van with concealed number-plates was seen stopping on January 26, 2019 in an alleyway running alongside the central Paris music venue.

Many concertgoers fled via the same alley when the Bataclan became the focal point of France’s worst ever attacks since World War II, as Islamic State group jihadists killed 130 people at a string of sites across the capital.

On the morning of the theft, three masked men climbed out of the van, cut the hinges with angle grinders powered by a generator and left within 10 minutes, in what an investigating judge called a “meticulously prepared” heist.

Prosecutor Valerie Cadignan told the court earlier this month that the perpetrators had not sought to debase the memory of the attack victims, but “being aware of the priceless value of the door were looking to make a profit”.

She said the thieves “acted like vultures, like people who steal objects without any respect for what they might represent”.

During the trial, Bataclan staff said the theft sparked “deep indignation”, adding that the painted door was a “symbol of remembrance that belongs to everyone, locals, Parisians, citizens of the world”.

Investigators pieced together the door’s route across France and into Italy, where it was found in June 2020 on a farm in Sant’Omero, near the Adriatic coast.

Three men involved in transporting the door were each jailed for 10 months, while a 58-year-old Italian man who owns a hotel where it was temporarily stored received a six-month suspended sentence.

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