Paris- A group of Romanians who trained children to steal wallets and mobile phones “on an industrial scale” in Paris received prison sentences of up to eight years on Friday.

A total of 19 Romanian nationals, described in court as being of ethnic Roma heritage, were convicted in connection with the racket, along with three Moroccans who received and resold the stolen goods.

Based in a makeshift camp in the northern suburbs of Paris, the Romanians were found to have operated a network of around 40

juvenile thieves between 2011 and 2012.

The only person acquitted was an 18-year-old who was found to have been forced into training the youths after serving his own apprenticeship in stealing as a minor.

The heaviest sentences, eight and seven-year prison terms, were given to three women and two men who were found to have used violence to ensure the children kept hitting the targets set for them.

These were typically one or two wallets and two or three telephones per day.

Nearly all the sentences were accompanied by orders banning the convicted individuals from France indefinitely, after they serve their sentences.

Sapa-AFP