French police arrested three men in a grave robbing investigation last week, the latest in a series of macabre incidents in Paris in which corpses have been dug up at night and stripped of gold jewelry and teeth along with other valuable metal items.
Two weeks earlier, authorities arrested four other men for also raiding tombs in and around Paris and charged them with aggravated theft, grave robbery, and violating the integrity of a corpse.
According to police, the recent spike in the ghoulish crime stems from sky-high market prices for gold and other precious metals.
At least six of the seven men arrested so far were grave diggers who work at the cemeteries, with the majority of incidents having occurred at the Pantin cemetery, the largest in Paris, with more than a million interments.
According to police, the first two men arrested on Nov. 25 were found covered in fresh earth and in possession of miners’ helmets and gloves. One of the suspects was found with 10 gold teeth.
After expressing his outrage, Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoe promised heightened surveillance by local authorities of the city’s cemeteries.
The dead, however, aren’t the only targets of thieves interested in valuable metals. The city of lights has also seen a surge in muggings in recent weeks.
Last Wednesday, a 52-year-old metal worker was shot dead while trying to prevent two masked intruders from stealing gold from his foundry in the district of Le Marais.
The killing came as police were seeing a rise in snatch-and-grab gold thefts, which is “clearly linked to the rise in market prices,” said Stéphane Gouaud, a Paris police commissioner whose unit combats precious metal and jewelry robbery.
A week and a half earlier, Gouaud’s team successfully shut down an illegal gold reseller network operating out of a train station in a northern Paris suburb.
“It was a real open supermarket for stolen gold. All the thieves from across the capital came there to sell their wares for cash,” Gouaud told The Daily Telegraph
Much of the city’s stolen gold is melted down in underground workshops throughout Paris before being transported and sold in Belgium, where “legislation is more relaxed,” says Gouaud.
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