Hamidovic Pickpocket Network—Fagin is alive!

Fehim Hamidovic, convicted chief of the Hamidovic pickpocket network
Fehim Hamidovic, convicted chief of the Hamidovic pickpocket network
Fagin—heard of him? An 1837 fiction.

Hamidovic—know that name? He’s an actual, living, pickpocket kingpin. Reality.

Hamidovic, arrested in late 2010, ran a network of hundreds, possibly thousands, of child pickpockets across Europe. He rounded up the underage kids, mostly Eastern European girls, and forced them to steal.

Hamidovic Pickpocket Gang

Forced! They were threatened with violence (including rape and cigarette burns) if they failed to bring in 300-1,000 euros each day. Not angels to begin with and already used to a rough life, once under Hamidovic’s leadership their treatment was brutal.

The children are all under 13, or so they claim—too young to be held by police. Their actual ages are unknown. When arrested, the young thieves all have the same answers. Name? Hamidovic. Age? 12. Police have no choice but to release them.

Pickpockets in Paris on break. Eight of the 10 we met in a Paris gang, moments before they returned to work. Hamidovic pickpocket network.
Pickpockets on break. Eight of the 10 we met in a Paris gang, moments before they returned to work.

300-1,000 euros each day. That explains the persistence and brazenness of the child pickpockets in Paris we observed and spoke with a few months ago. And it explains the 1.3 million euros Hamidovic is said to have netted in just one year. Not to mention his fancy houses, Porsche, and six-figure casino visits. And perhaps it explains why Hamidovic, living the luxe life, reported no income. (“Occupation: organized crime boss.”)

Hamidovic and his underthugs in the Hamidovic pickpocket network trained their little criminals to target Asians when possible, because Hamidovic believed Asians carried more cash and were easy victims. But anyone is fair game in the steal business. In the Paris Metro, we watch clusters of 8-12 child pickpockets fan out and flit from target to target, fast, fleet, unapologetic when noticed.

Fehim Hamidovic, from former Yugoslavia, was 58 when he was arrested along with his wife and two sons. He was 60 when sentenced to seven years in prison. Believing that the Hamidovic pickpocket network was responsible for two-thirds or more of thefts on the country’s Metro, French authorities breathed a sigh of relief. They had dismantled the network. They’d taken down the boss.

“This ‘beast’ will soon have a new head,” said The Mysterious Monsieur F., our official source in Paris, when Hamidovic was finally caught. “The arrest of the chief of the Hamidovic pickpocket network did not change anything, they are always there. And they make a carnage!”

Paris pickpockets: Skipping and singing, the pickpockets lead us out of the subway and into Place Pigalle, a safe place to talk. Hamidovic pickpocket network.
Skipping and singing, the pickpockets lead us out of the subway and into Place Pigalle, a safe place to talk.

“Nobody sees these ‘clouds’ of pickpockets, even though they are not especially discreet. The Hamidovic ‘work’ very well but they are not wary. It is not a problem—there is no risk of prison for them.”

So—the head of the pickpocket gang, this modern-day Fagin, is finally off the streets. Yet, the Hamidovic pickpocket network is alive and well.

A brother, a sister, a nephew, and others have stepped in to perpetuate the gang that authorities call a well-oiled machine and “a powerful entity, perennial, professional”, and “vast network of human trafficking,” “an underground economy, with earnings and protection.” As well as Paris, the vast network operated throughout France, in Belgium, Spain, and Italy.

The Hamidovic pickpocket network grabs headlines, to the exclusion of their also-numerous competitors. The Mysterious Monsieur F. laments:

“The French news reports show only the Hamidovic, causing many people to think that all France’s pickpockets are girls of 12 or 14 years. When announcements are made in the subway stations, the travelers look only for the Hamidovic!

“France’s pickpocket situation is under-estimated. I am ashamed for my country when visitors become victims as of their first steps in France. The Hamidovic can become violent. If a person shouts “pickpocket!” they spit. It is dangerous because many claim to have pneumonia.

“The judgment of Fehim Hamidovic did not change the situation of the thefts in the subway. They are still numerous and sometimes violent.”

In 2013, the Hamidovic pickpocket network opened a branch in the South of France run by Goran Hamidovic, son of the imprisoned Fehim Hamidovic. Pickpocket reports went from 80 per month to 580. Soon Goran Hamidovic, his wife, son, and daughter-in-law were arrested.

Do you think there is any less pickpocketing in France today? In January 2015, The Mysterious Monsieur F. writes “There are still many pickpocketing…”

The Hamidovic pickpocket gang lives on!

© Copyright 2008-present Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • Bostonian, thanks for your insight. Bob and I just returned from Paris and here’s an amusing update. On the Metro, we found a female pickpocket we first met back in October 2014. She’s one of the gang in the photo above (“Pickpockets on break”). She remembered us and we had a leisurely dinner together, at which she told us that she tells police that she is 17. Her real age is 28. She has six children—possibly (though she didn’t say this) because when pregnant or carrying an infant, she won’t be arrested. She also showed us the wad of money in her pocket: Over $1,200 in crisp U.S. hundreds. Not bad for a day’s take. But it wasn’t the end of her day, either. At the end of dinner, she and her partner were eager to get back to work.

    One more clarification regarding Stockholmer’s comment that the children are “leased from their families and set to work.” That arrangement is still “forced,” as the children do not have a choice in the matter.

  • In addition, I would like to point our France24’s opinion on this:

    ‘Minors were also victims’

    In the course of their investigation into the Hamidovic gang, police were able to speak with a number of witnesses, who described the cigarette burns and beatings, as well as how they were trained to target Asian tourists, because they were said to carry the largest amounts of cash on them. None of the witnesses, however, were willing to testify in court.

    “They have vanished,” said Guillaume Lardanchet, director of the Off the Street, an organisation that provides support to underage foreigners in difficulty. Off the Street worked with a number of minors involved with the Hamidovic gang before the case went to trial.

    “We are punishing the head of the gang, which is a very good thing, but we forget that there are minors who are also victims of exploitation. We don’t know how to keep them out of the reach of gangs, or how to give them adequate protection,” Lardanchet said.

    According to Lardanchet, many children’s homes and emergency shelters where girls from the Hamidovic gang were placed had an open door policy. Members of the organisation would wait outside of the buildings for the girls to pass by and emotionally blackmail or frighten them.

    “These are minors who come from very difficult backgrounds. Some of them have never known any other kind of life. They don’t have a strong understanding of our institutions or our culture, which only further complicates things,” Lardanchet said, adding that he believed that the majority would “probably wind up back in a gang”.

    “As long as we don’t have a system that can adequately protect them, it will continue,” Lardanchet said.

    http://www.france24.com/en/20130425-france-hamidovic-child-pickpocketing-ring-trial-paris/

  • I don’t believe that you can say that most or all of these children are not forced to steal. I believe that is incorrect.

    According to the US Department of State, most of the children were forced to steal and pickpocket under the threat of violence. “On November 30, the government charged Fehim Hamidovic, his wife, and 20 members of their family with “conspiracy, human trafficking and theft” for running a criminal network that forced minor girls and boys, most of them Roma, to steal and pickpocket under the threat of violence.”

    link to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 where this was found https://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2012humanrightsreport/index.htm?dlid=204286&year=2012#wrapper

    and as state by RFI, “According to police investigators, each had to bring in 300 to 1,000 euros a day to the heads of the network and was punished if they did not bring in enough, often with rape.”

    which can be found here: http://en.rfi.fr/europe/20101201-french-police-dismantle-international-ex-yugoslav-pickpocket-ring

    As a result, most girls who are brought into this do not want to be in this situation. Being forced to pickpocket and give your money to the ‘ring leaders’ under punishment of violence or rape should be, and is, considered as forced to steal.

  • I agree with both your comments, Stockholmer. As a blogger, sometimes I need to be PC and find other words to describe the perps. Glad you said it, though.

  • The hamidovics are apparently gypsies. I would say that most if not all of the children also are gypsies, and they were not forced to steal, they were leased from their families and set to work.

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