Milieu (organized crime in France)
|Territory||Most major cities in France|
|Ethnicity||Predominantly French, Corsican, French Travellers (Yeniche and Manouche), Arab French (French Maghrebi, predominantly of Algerian descent) and French Blacks.|
|Criminal activities||Arms trafficking, Drug trafficking, Money laundering, arson, Assault, counterfeiting, Extortion, Fraud, Human trafficking, illegal gambling, Kidnapping, Murder, prostitution, Racketeering, Theft.|
The Milieu is a category of French organized criminals operating in France. However it often works with foreign organised crime. Criminal groups associated with the Milieu work in every major city in France, but are mostly concentrated in Marseille, Grenoble, Paris, and Lyon.
- 1 Meaning of the word
- 2 History of Milieu
- 3 Contemporary Milieu
- 4 See also
- 5 References
Meaning of the word
The term Milieu literally means middle and figuratively society or environment and refers to the set of criminal figures operating in the French metropolitan areas who are known to the public for being involved in high level organized crime. This category does not include criminal organizations that were formed in another country, such as the Italian Camorra, the Albanian mafia, Chinese Triads, Serbian mafia or the Turkish Kurd PKK- or Sri Lankan LTTE-affiliated criminal clans that are known to operate in France.
Instead, milieu is a type of criminal organization founded in France with long-standing ties to the country. Currently the four most significant pillars of the homegrown "French" underworld are:
- Corsican mafia
- French Maghrebi criminal organizations
- French Black criminal organizations
- Traveller-based organized crime families
History of Milieu
The "Milieu" was represented until the end of the 1990s by "Godfathers" ("Parrains" in French), who generally controlled a city. The "traditional Milieu" is the direct successor of this "Godfathers era".
In Paris, from the 1920s to the 1980s, the predominant areas of criminal activities were prostitution places (Pigalle, Rue Saint-Denis). Pigalle was the neighbourhood of many famous gangsters of the French capital (especially Corsican Godfathers like Jean-Paul Stefani, Ange Saliceti etc.). Many influential gangs were based in Paris, such as the Tractions Avant gang during the 1940s and 1950s, which was involved in many robberies throughout the country. During the 1970s the most powerful gang in Paris was the Zemmour crime family (a Jewish/pied noir clan). The Zemmour brothers controlled prostitution in the French capital and were considered to be Godfathers of Paris before their assassinations in the early 1980s. After Zemmour's fall, prostitution has been gradually deserted by the milieu and the major criminal areas of Paris became the poor suburbs (Montreuil, Saint-Ouen, Aubervilliers, the Banlieue Sud etc.) with drug trafficking, robberies and many other activities. Since the 1980s, many gangsters from the Banlieues or the poor neighbourhoods were prominent in the Paris underworld (Claude Genova until his assassination in 1994, the Gang des postiches until their disbandment in 1986, the Hornec brothers, the Banlieue Sud mobsters, Rédoine Faïd and many others since the 1990s).
In Marseille, there is a long criminal history. During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, like in Paris, prostitution was the most important criminal activity, controlled by the two Godfathers Paul Carbone and François Spirito. Then, between the 1950s and 1970s the major activity was drug trafficking with the French Connection (probably organized by Corsican clans such as the Guerini crime family, the Venturi crime family and many others). After the French Connection disbandment, the "Milieu" of Marseille was dominated by the Italian-French gangster Tany Zampa, who was in conflict with Jacky "Mad Jacky" Imbert and Francis "the Belgian" Vanverberghe (in French "Francis le Belge") for the control of racketeering and drug trafficking. After Zampa's arrest in 1983 and his suicide one year later, the Marseille "underworld" was headed by the Mad Jacky gang and Francis Vanverberghe until the end of the 1990s. Francis "The Belgian" is considered to be the last "Godfather" of Marseille. He was murdered in Paris in 2000. The main activities and businesses of Vanverberghe were taken over by Corsican gangsters and several mob bosses of Marseille after his death.
While the word used to be associated with the loosely organized French gangsters and criminals of various origin (Italians, Corsicans, Pieds-noirs, Kabyles etc.) that operated in France, nowadays the word is mostly associated with the two most powerful types of homegrown organized crime. One of them has an older tradition of criminal activity in France, while the other is a newer arrival in the criminal underworld.
Both types are known for being extremely violent and ruthless. The growing murder rates within the Corsican gangland can be attributed to the first, while many of the gangland executions in Marseille can be attributed to the second, newer type of criminal outfit.
The Corsican mafia
The Corsican mafia is the Corsican criminal gangs that have long been operating in Corsica and on the French mainland, particularly in Marseille. They are known for being involved in a wide range of criminal activities and also for being very secretive and extremely violent, reflecting the climbing murder rates on the island of Corsica.
Currently, many gangs operate in Corsica. In Northern Corsica there is the Brise de Mer Gang (today troubled by an internal conflict between the old and the new generation of the gang, which has caused around thirty murders on the island since 2008) and the "Venzolasca Gang" (also named the "Shepherds/Robbers" gang). The Venzolasca gang is a new Corsican gang who appeared at the end of the 2000s.
In Southern Corsica, the accidental death of the Godfather Jean-Jé Colonna, in 2006, caused a conflict for his succession (occasioning around fifty murders in the area since 2006).
The Corsican mafia gangs are very powerful in Corsica, but also in the South of France (they control many nightclubs, bars and restaurants in Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and the French Riviera). The Corsican gangs are also suspected to control the gambling clubs in Paris, and many gambling activities in African countries.
The French Corsican mafia ("Le Milieu corso-marseillais")
The "Milieu corso-marseillais" is a term to describe the gangster families of Corsican origin which have been established for a long time in the major cities of southern France (primarily in Marseille, but also in Toulon and the French Riviera). They are part of the "traditional" Milieu. The "corso-marseillais" are the successors of the French Connection gangsters (often named Unione Corse by American authorities). In Marseille they are involved in illegal slot machines, money laundering in legal businesses, extortion, drug trafficking and robberies. They are suspected to have good connections with French politics.
Les Caïds Des Cités
Les Caïds des Cités literally means The Caids of the Banlieues, or HLM crime lords. These are the organized criminal groups that have more recently appeared in the suburbs of most major French cities. The criminal organizations predominantly formed by French Maghrebis (Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans) and French Blacks living in these impoverished suburbs are increasingly involved in organized crime as well.
They are known for their involvement in drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, and murder. Although they are not as secretive as the Corsican gangs, they are just as ruthless. Recently a number of murders (mostly committed with AK-47s) and torture, including setting rivals on fire, in Marseille can be attributed to an intense drug war between organized criminal gangs from the suburbs. Les caids des cités are said to be taking the place the "traditional" criminals used to have in the French Riviera over control of drug trafficking.
French Maghrebi organized crime
Criminal organizations predominantly composed of people of Algerian and too a lesser extent of Moroccan and Tunisian descent are especially active in the suburbs of most of France's major cities such as Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Grenoble and Lille. The main activity of the Maghrebi gangs is the large-scale illegal trafficking in narcotics, mainly hashish and marihuana, but also cocaine and heroin. Organized gangs may also be involved in other forms of more traditional racketeering. The larger criminal organizations composed of people of North African origin often have close ties to the "traditional" French underworld, such as Corsican mafia gangs (especially in the South of France) and the "Traveller"-based criminal organizations in the North of France.
French Black organized crime
Following the emergence of North African gangs and their gradual integration towards the more "traditional" Corsican and Traveller underworld, gangs composed of immigrants of Sub-Saharan African and Caribbean descent were also formed in the Parisian suburbs in particular. Traditionally their main activity has revolved around the sale of crack cocaine. At the beginning of the 80's crack cocaine was introduced to Europe (in the United Kingdom in particular) by Jamaican criminal groups named Yardies. In turn similar groups were created among the Caribbeans and African Blacks living in the impoverished French suburbs, especially of Paris. These groups, seen as the French version of the Yardies, were described as low-level petty drug dealers at first but increasingly began to organize themselves when the use of crack cocaine became popular. Black gangs also began diversifying in the drug trade and also introduced heroin as well as becoming active in the importation and distribution of pure cocaine, as several West African states and Caribbean territories became popular transshipment points for the drug. The Black African-based criminal organizations have rivalled with the North African gangs over the distribution of hashish, but they have also often associated with each other when it comes to the trafficking of cocaine. As with the North African criminal organizations, local black gangs have also been involved in other forms of racketeering as they've also been making their way towards the more traditional "milieu". The French Black gangs are predominantly composed of persons with origins in countries and regions from which there has been a significant immigration to the Paris suburbs, most notably Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Congo, Cameroon, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Cape Verde.
The "Traveller" gangs (in French "Gitans" or "Voyageurs") are criminal organizations of French Manush and Yeniche. These gangs come from the caravan camps in the suburbs of French cities (like Paris, Marseille, Grenoble, Montpellier etc.). They are involved in many criminal activities (robberies, extortion, drug trafficking, Prostitution, illegal slots machines…). The most famous of them is the Hornec crime family.
The Hornec are suspected to control the eastern suburbs of Paris and are very influential in the region of the French capital. Many Traveller gangsters also operate in the South of France (they are traditionally influential in the Camargue and the Étang de Berre region). These gangsters are often considered to be part of the "traditional Milieu" (unlike the HLM crime lords and Crack Cocaine Gangs who constitute the "New Milieu").
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