Bosnian Mafia finally in the dock

An Oliver Twist-type crime ring that targeted tourists and exploited children is finally about to get its comeuppance in court this week.
A total of 46 defendants – the majority from Bosnia – will be appearing before a criminal court in Lisbon on Monday charged with an ugly list of crimes, including thefts, fraud, illegal immigration, falsification of documents and domestic violence.
But perhaps worst of all are the crimes that appear to have involved children, used and abused – particularly in the thefts and frauds – and then left to “complete abandon, suffering and hungry”.
According to Lusa news agency, 16 of the adults coming before the court have been detained in custody since October 2012.
One is thought to be a Portuguese woman – a kind of modern-day Bill Sykes, the villain in Oliver Twist who sent children out to pick pockets.
This woman, says Lusa, organised rental agreements for the ‘families’ – knowing full well they were not families at all, and that the children were being used to bring in money.
At the time that the GNR and SEF (immigration control) busted the ring, they found 30 children – all without documents – “abandoned and mistreated”, “many of them used by the group in the practice of crimes”.
The children have all since been institutionalised, reports Lusa.
The news service writes that the Public Ministry’s case will show how the group practised in touristic centres and on public transport, invariably targeting holidaymakers.
Their area extended from Greater Lisbon to the Fátima sanctuary, Porto, Braga and even down to the Algarve.
There was a complex hierarchy, with only six people calling the shots and all the others apparently following – and their trail of crimes began in Portugal as early as 2009.
According to Lusa, the defence will be alleging “subjective conjecture” and “lack of proof”.
The case opens at 9am on Monday in Lisbon’s 2.ª Vara Criminal at Campus da Justiça.