Organized crime in France is mainly based in some of its major and urban cities such as Grenoble, Lyon, Paris and Marseille. Organized criminals, singularly referred to as ‘les beaux voyous’ (the goodfellas) and collectively referred to as the French Mob, function and carry out their activities within Le Milieu (which translates to – the underworld).
Fencing, hijacking, prostitution and bookmaking were the crimes carried out within Le Milieu, during the 1900s. Between the 1940s and 70s, things took a shift towards smuggling, drug trafficking and bank robbery. The year 1980 experienced a huge number of heists and bank robberies in France. Between the years 1990 to 2000, complicated extortion rings were created by criminal organisations in Marseille and such activities extended further to Aix-en-Provence and the greater French Riviera.
Apart from this, white collar criminal operations as well as counterfeiting has been something for which Le Milieu has been known for since 2002. With the rise in financial regulations, Le Milieu has been forced to link their gains from criminal activity into the legal economy. The geographical location of France makes it an attractive place for the purpose of trafficking, smuggling and counterfeiting activities.
Marseille’s port is the perfect hub for the movement of huge amount of products into the European and domestic markets. The largest factor contributing to the increase in criminal organisations in France is low economic development. Corsican mafia is the most known criminal organisation in Le Milieu. This mafia has been popular for various criminal activities in the past, however, in the modern era, Marseille-based Unione Corse and Northern Corsica-based Gang de la Brise de Mer are the groups that are operating criminal dealings in France. The two groups are controlling night clubs, restaurants, bars, hotels and apartments in Aix-en-Provence, French Riviera and Marseille.
Due to the historical link between the Sicilian and Corsican mafia, the structure of many French mobs are split, depending on the crime families strict hierarchy. The origins of organized crime can be traced back to the time of the French Revolution. The name given to the group of ‘goodfellas’ who are responsible for protecting territory is équipe multi-qualifiée. The members that are a part of the French Mob are way smarter and highly professional compared to the crime groups at the lower levels. As per the study conducted on organized crime in 2004, criminal activities taking place in France can be divided into three categories:
Completely Illegal Activity: Acts of crime that are blatantly illegal, for example, kidnapping, trafficking, and assault.
Associative Illegal Act: Acts of crime linked with wholly illegal acts, for example, bribery and tax fraud.
Legal Activity: This includes covering up illegal acts through legal activities such as operating a business for the purpose of money laundering, restaurants, running gambling machinery etc.
Such acts are considered a part of criminal activity in France.