Gang des postiches
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.
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.
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
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.
Of the previous members of the Gang des postiches:
- Jean-Claude Myszka committed suicide in 2003.
- J.Roublin-Torre was freed in 1996.
- André Bellaïche was freed and runs a record store in Paris on rue Mouffetard.
- Patrick Geay is still incarcerated. He denies his affiliation with the gang. On October 31, 2006, he was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment by the Essonne Court of Appeals, which found him guilty of 5 robberies and an accomplice in the attempted murder of a police officer.
- Robert Marguery lives in Thailand.
The return of the Gang des postiches
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
- Le Dernier Gang a movie by Ariel Zeitoun starring Vincent Elbaz, Gilles Lellouche, Sami Bouajila, Clémence Poésy, Pascal Elbé.
- André Bellaïche. La vérité si je mens, Libération, 18 octobre 2007
- http://www.maviesanspostiche.com, le blog d'André Bellaïche