10 of the Most Famous French Gangsters


Pierre Loutrel profil

Pierre Loutrel profil by Wikimedia Commons

It’s easy to imagine that the mafia only exists in Italy, the United States, or Asian nations, but France has also been distinguished by a high level of mafia activity within its boundaries. It began in Marseille in the 1920s but has since evolved into “aggravated crimes,”, especially in terms of organized crime in France.

For the longest period, some parts of France were under the grip of extremely strong “mobsters,” whose operations included drug trafficking, bank robbery, illicit gambling, and intimidation methods. While many of these groups have since vanished, their names and legends live on…

1. Victor Lustig, the man who sold the Eiffel Tower!

Victor Lustig

Victor Lustig by Philadelphia newspaper from Wikimedia Common

Victor Lustig, born on January 4, 1890, is one of the most famous con artists of all time. He earned this notoriety via his numerous scams, which spanned various nations, duping hundreds of people while working for the famed Al Capone, who was somewhat of an evil genius at the time.

This guy is well known for selling the “iron lady,” also known as the Eiffel Tower. In 1920, Victor Lustig persuaded five of the largest French metal recovery businesses to sell the metal from the Eiffel Tower as scrap by posing as a governmental official, then as the general manager of the PTT ministry (Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones). 2. The criminal with a thousand faces, Jacques Mesrine

2. The criminal with a thousand faces, Jacques Mesrine

Jacques Mesrine, a well-known serial murderer of the 1970s, is the most daring French criminal of the past decade. Between high-profile jail evasions and shockingly public bank robberies, the #1 public enemy made officials’ lives a living nightmare by instilling fear in them, taking advantage of a naive and corrupt French administration.

3. Albert Spaggiari

Société Générale

Société Générale by Wikimedia Commons

Albert Spaggiari was born on December 14, 1932, in the Hautes-Alpes town of Laragne-Montéglin. He is most known as the mastermind behind the “heist of the century” at the Société Générale in Nice. He is an ex-soldier, parachutist, writer, and photographer.

He managed to dodge police forces on the run after a dramatic escape from jail until his death in 1989. The books he read at the time, particularly those by Robert Pollock, inspired him to join the Société Générale in Nice. The author recalls a bank heist that was carried out by crawling into the sewers in his story “Tout a l’gout.”

The crime would make national news as the “heist of the century,” branding him for life. Over 50 million francs in gold and gems are believed to have vanished over the course of a weekend. The heist squad took care to leave no evidence and wipe all of their fingerprints, leaving just one tiny hint for police officials: a statement engraved on the wall of the safe by Spaggiari that said, “No weapons, no violence, no hatred.”

4. Michel Ardouin

Born in December 1943 in Paris to a privileged family, he swiftly escaped his upbringing and enlisted in the navy at a young age. After serving time in military prison, he turned to criminal activities, indulging in prostitution, which was a French speciality at the time.

He then travelled to Barcelona before joining the Latino Connection gang in South America as one of their hired murderers. His wife was killed and he was gravely hurt during one of his contracts.

He sought to alter his life by publishing his memoirs after doing time in jail for drug trafficking. Despite his new occupation, Michel Ardouin had several run-ins with the government for illicit gambling and handgun possession. He died on January 21, 2014.

5. Laurent Fiocconi

He was raised and taught by his brothers, who happened to be career criminals in the Pigalle district after his fanatic father perished during deportation in 1941. They ultimately taught him the ropes of their trade. He decided to focus on drug trafficking after a few robberies, and it became his way of life till the end of his days.

Fiocconi made his first million at the age of 28 by smuggling a hundred kilograms of heroin from Marseille to New York in a fishing boat dubbed “The Whims of Time,” thereby establishing the French link, a criminal drug trafficking organization in New York. This immediately attracted the attention of American cops, who began to focus on Pietralba’s son.

He finally discovered that he had a talent in chemistry which will lead to thirty years of incarceration, family life, clandestine laboratories and lunch dates with Pablo Escobar, the drug baron.

6. Paul Carbone

Paul Carbone

Paul Carbone by Wikimedia Commons

If you visited Marseille in the 1920s, 1930s, or 1940s, you would immediately discover that Paul Carbonne and his Italian accomplice François Spirito governed the city.

At the same time as they were engaging in classic illicit activities such as prostitution, racketeering, and contraband, they were strengthening their French ties by being the first to smuggle opium into France with the purpose of turning it into heroin and shipping it to the United States.

Both men deferred to the occupier’s side during the war, mostly to protect their own interests. They assisted the Gestapo during the occupation of the “free zone,” in exchange for the freedom to conduct their operations unhindered.

7. Gaëtan Zampa

Gatan Zampa, also known as Tany Zampa, was a charismatic character in Marseillan organized crime. He began his criminal career as a member of the Three Ducks group in Paris.

The racketeer, who specialized in particularly brutal intimidation was soon to be relocated to the Cote d’Azur region and diversified his illicit enterprises in the 1960s to include prostitution, drug trafficking, and gambling. In 1967, he is suspected of ordering the assassination of former Marseillan drug kingpin Antoin Guérini.

Following the murder of Judge Michel in 1981, the mobster took his own life in prison after losing a gang fight against Matou and being carefully observed by police forces.

8. Émile Buisson

Émile Buisson

Émile Buisson by Wikimedia Commons

Emile Buisson, the Front Traction gang’s Public Enemy No. 1 in France after the war, irritated law enforcement officials with several robberies. He was a ruthless robber who specialized in all forms of break-ins, fights, and hold-ups. When he saw his brother in danger, he committed his first murder in 1926, and he began to earn a reputation with the first of many daring acts: attacking an armoured carriage in Troyes in 1937 and walking away with 1 800 000 francs.

During his trial, he confessed to all of his crimes, including 36 murders and assaults. On the 28th of February 1956, he was guillotined in Paris after being found guilty of capital punishment.

9. Jacques Imbert

Jacques Imbert, aka Jacky Le Mat, is Marseille’s last remaining kingpin. This lifelong criminal, a member of the Three Ducks gang, excelled in the skills of racketeering and prostitution until a murder attempt by former partner Tony Zampa left him with 22 bullets in his body one morning in February 1977.

The result was a gang war that lasted until Tony Zampa committed suicide while incarcerated in February 1987, when he and his generals were entirely wiped out. He retired from his business to live a calm existence in Marseille after supporting his buddy Francis Le Belge during the legendary “nightclub battle” (1989-1994).

10. Pierre Loutrel

Pierre Loutrel

Pierre Loutrel by Wikimedia Commons

Pierre Loutrel, aka Pierrot-le-fou, was a member of the French gestapo and afterwards a key figure during the golden era of crime, serving with the French resistance for a time. For him, the occupation was a trying time, during which he went on a drunken stealing and killing spree.

He earned a reputation as an impetuous and deadly crime lord, earning him the moniker. His associates typically left him to his own devices because he was so insane. Pierrot’s life came to a tragic end in 1946 when he died of injuries he received accidentally during a heist at a Parisian jewellery store.

Even today, gangs are a social issue because of the violence they inflict on communities and the negative consequences of gang membership for its members. As we’ve seen from the people on this list, it never ends well!