Modern-day Fagin 'forced 500 girls into theft'
A modern-day Fagin masterminded the biggest child pickpocketing ring seen in Paris, with up to 500 young girls threatened with beatings or even rape unless they stole €300 a day, a French court was told yesterday.
Fehim Hamidovic (60), a Bosnian whose lawyers described him as a "good grandfather", was accused of running a Dickensian gang of Roma girls as young as 12 who were forced to steal from tourists – mainly Asian – or face cigarette burns or even more brutal abuse.
At the time the ring was dismantled in 2010, police estimated it was responsible for 75pc of all thefts on the Paris metro.
Mr Hamidovic was among 22 people, including his wife and two of his sons, who appeared in the Paris criminal court on charges of people trafficking, criminal association and forcing minors to commit crimes, which carry a maximum prison term of 20 years.
He denied all the charges and appeared nonplussed when the judge asked him how he was able to fund a lavish lifestyle and spend much of his time gambling while declaring nothing to the taxman.
The court heard written evidence from two girls, Carla (14) and Fadida (11), from the former Yugoslavia, who said they were forced to steal.
They were then allegedly responsible for transferring the entire Paris group's earnings to Nice.
If the takings were less than €60,000 a week, they would be "detained and beaten".
Mr Hamidovic claimed to be the victim of a plot to incriminate him by a rival Bosnian clan run by a man nicknamed "Elvis", and that even apparent signs that girls had been beaten could have been "self-inflicted" to incriminate him.
"There are 500 women and children involved.
"I'm accused in this affair but have nothing to do with it. It's Elvis," he said.
The trial ends on April 24. (© Daily Telegraph, London)