Gang des postiches

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The Gang des postiches (French: Wigs Gang) was a famous team of bank robbers that operated in Paris between 1981 and 1986. With a rare boldness, they attacked about thirty banks.

They would enter the bank dressed in common clothing and wearing false mustaches, beards, and wigs (from which they got their name). After entering the bank, they would separate into two groups, the first responsible for taking hostages, while the second took their time taking cash from the bank's vault.

Organisation[edit]

It is known that the group consisted of a core group of 5 or 6 members from eastern Paris, but there were other loose members as well. They gathered to commit a series of hold-ups, even several in the same day, then separated for a while, sometimes went abroad, before they would start again. This bank robbery team was considered one of the best in France's history.

The media[edit]

Amidst the robberies, and in the absence of any leads for the investigators, journalists treated the robbers as almost heroes, since they were respectful to their hostages and did not hurt them. The robbers addressed the bank patrons and benefited from a strong sympathy among ordinary people, who smiled more than they were bothered when they heard that the Gang des postiches had struck again. They even spoke once of following a leftist guerilla ideology, which was clearly erroneous.

The final chapter[edit]

The police and the government eventually lost their patience with the ease with which the Gang des postiches operated and their mythification by the press. All the resources were deployed to combat them. The police developed an anti-wig device in Paris bank branches. This system was far from effective, but the gang felt the pressure rising around them. They became more cautious, more nervous and less courteous with the hostages.

On January 14, 1986, the device was triggered, summoning the BRB (Banditry Repression Brigade) and the BRI (Research and Intervention Brigade) around the Crédit Lyonnais branch on 39, rue du Docteur-Blanche, in the 16th arrondissement, and this time it was effective. Police discreetly surrounded the bank, knowing that the gang was inside, to stop them when they come out. Unfortunately when they came out the situation devolved into chaos, owing to the reckless action of the head of the BRB, Raymond Mertz. In the ensuing shootout, one of the gangsters, Bruno Berliner, and a police officer, Jean Vrindts, were killed. In addition, there were 3 policemen wounded. Some of the robbers managed to escape. The fiasco revealed serious drifts originating from the police headquarters at the 36 quai des Orfèvres.

While the policemen blamed the BRB director for the blunder, he was protected and cleared. This situation led to an unseen protest and demonstration at the 36 quai des Orfèvres. In retaliation, the police hierarchy used the services of the IGS (Police Services General Inspection - the "police of police") to break up the protest. Later, Mertz (who had strong political support and connections) was even promoted deputy director of the Paris police. In the meantime, a BRI officer, Dominique Loiseau, was accused of being a spy within the police. He was tried and convicted for it, but serious doubts remained among some about the facts. After almost 7 years in prison, he was pardoned by François Mitterrand in 1993.

That story inspired Olivier Marchal for his film 36 Quai des Orfèvres.

Jean-Claude Myszka, André Bellaïche, and Patrick Geay were arrested in December 1986 in a villa in Yerres after almost a year on the run.

Of the previous members of the Gang des postiches:

The return of the Gang des postiches[edit]

In 2004, the case of the Gang des postiches resurfaced when the serial killer Michel Fourniret admitted that he acquired his fortune from the Gang des postiches when he recovered the gold bricks they stole during the 1980s from where they were hidden in cemeteries, upon his release from prison.

In popular culture[edit]

References[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Les Postiches, un gang des années 80, par Patricia Tourancheau, Fayard.
  • Un flic innocent en prison, l'histoire vraie qui a inspiré le film 36, quai des orfèvres par Dominique Loiseau et Michel Naudy, Bernard Pascuito éditeur.
  • Ma vie sans postiche par André Bellaïche, Editions First.