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French Police Detain 26 Georgians in Paris

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, November 20
(PARIS)--Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) has confirmed reports by the French media that 35members of an organized crime group, including 26 Georgians, were arrested in Paris.

Interior Ministry Central Department Head Giorgi Dvalishvili said among the Georgian nationals that have been detained, five are so called “thieves-in-law” – a term used to describe fully-fledged members of organized crime gangs in former Soviet republics.

Dvalishvili said the operation was carried out with cooperation from the Georgian MIA special attaché in France and the Central Criminal Police Department of the French MIA, as well as by Interpol and Europol.

The gang members are accused of robbery, extortion and smuggling.

French police reportedly tracked the group’s money laundering scheme for more than two years. According to international media reports, the group would register dummy construction companies to launder the money.

French daily Le Figaro reported that the detainees allegedly robbed houses and shops and also stole cars and jewelry. Police found 70,000 euros in cash while searching the gang member’s homes.

Le Figaro also reported that French law enforcement officials froze 200,000 euros from the groups seized bank accounts.

Russian media outlet Crime Russia reported that all 35 gang members, among them eight women, are from post-Soviet countries, including Russia.

Ecateriné Siradzé-Delaunay, Georgia’s Ambassador to France, said the embassy has yet to be informed about the case.

In addition to Paris, operations also took place in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where some of the detainees owned real estate.

The international media has long reported on the activities of big-name “thieves-in-law” in several European countries, including Greece and Spain. Since the late 1990s the leaders of the groups have reportedly created powerful crime families made up entirely of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.