Le Milieu in Paris: French Gang History (2023)

If you think that Italy is the only country in the world with a mob, think again! Organized crime exists all over the world, and France in no exception.

In France, the mob is called Le Milieu, or “The Underworld” in English. The members of the gang are referred to as les beaux voyous, which translates into “the goodfellas” in English.

Le Milieu has been operating since the early 1900s, and still exists today. Their history is filled with ups and downs, and of course, many crimes. Are you intrigued yet? Keep reading for the history of the French gang, Le Milieu!


Gang organization and terminology

If we’re going to be talking about the French Mob, there are some ideas and terms you’ll have to understand! When I first started to research this article, I was pretty confused, so I wanted to include this section before I get into all of the juicy stuff.

French Mob terminology:

  • Caïd : the “big boss.” The highest level of the French Mob
  • Parrain : “Godfather” in French. The highest level under the Caïd in the French Mob
  • Spécialiste : “specialist” in French. Someone who has a specific skill set, like robbery
  • Associé : “associate” in French. Someone who is associated with the French Mob
  • Les beaux voyous : “the goodfellas” in French. Usually tasked with carrying out orders given from the Caïd or the Godfathers. I think of the movie. Is that just me?

The organization of the French Mob:

  • Le Milieu: “The Underworld”, the general name for the French Mob
  • The Corsican Mafia: a criminal organization with its roots in the Sicilian Mafia. Mostly consists of “crime families”
  • Crime families : families that worked together in the mafia. They usually carry out orders from Godfathers
  • Gangs: smaller organized crime groups scattered across France

The early years of Le Milieu

Paul Carbone & François Spirito – WikiCommons

Although organized crime in France existed long before Le Milieu, in the form of Revolutionists, the French Mob can trace it’s operation back to the early 1900s. In the beginning, Le Milieu focused on creating “crime families,” who ran businesses throughout France, and particularly in Paris.

Pigalle and rue Saint-Denis were the hubs of prostitution in Paris, and Le Milieu controlled most, if not all, of the money that was coming and going in this corner of the city. In Corsica, an island off the coast of southern France, organized crime began popping up everywhere due to the decentralised political control at the time.

Gang members from Corsica began to migrate to the southern coast of France, and starting setting up prostitution rings there. Because of Corsica’s close proximity to Italy, the French Mob and the Italian Mob were heavily involved with one another.

At this time, two French-Italian men, Paul CarboneandFrançois Spirito, were considered to be the godfathers of the gang.

The “French Connection”

The preferred method of transportation for members of the Gang des Tractions Avant – WikiCommons

In the 1930s, the Zemmour brothers, were a pair of brothers that were considered to be the “Godfathers of Paris” for their control of prostitution in the capital. The brothers soon decided to try their hand at the drug business.

Suddenly, France becomes a major hub in a heroin smuggling ring. France was in a perfect location: the drugs came in from Turkey, and were then sent to Canada and then the United States. The smuggling ring was at its peak in the 1960s and 1970s.

Various crime families were tasked with running the smuggling ring. The Connection was eventually dissolved by the French authorities in the late 1970s. When the ring was dismantled, its headquarters in Marseille was left without gang leadership. The Corsican Mafia group, Unione Corse, took over the city, and helped to get Le Milieu out of the French Connection ring.

In the 1980s, several Godfathers began to fight to take control of Paris from the Zemmour brothers, and the brothers were killed as a result. A man named Claude Genova stepped up to the task and took control as the Godfather of Paris. He worked towards taking control of the drugs that were coming in and out of the city. He also took control of prostitution, which remained under his hand until his death in 1994.

From 1981-86, the Gang des postiches, a gang that operated under the umbrella of Le Milieu, robbed almost 30 banks! Prostitution, bank robbery, drug trafficking…Le Milieu really had their hands in almost every sort of crime.

Le Milieu in later years

Member of Le Milieu, Raymond Callemin, who was arrested and killed by guillotine – WikiCommons

In the 1990s, cities across France broke up into smaller groups that were headed by different godfathers. However, larger cities like Paris, were divided up within the city. Corsican godfathers like Jean-Paul Stefani and Ange Saliceti began to fight over the different 20 arrondissements.

The Rédoine Faïd gang emerged in Paris at this time, and was responsible for various bank robberies, jewellery store robberies, and extortion cases. The name of the leader of the gang Rédoine Faïd, may be ringing some bells if you have followed French news in recent years.

Faïd was finally arrested in 2011 and was sent to jail. He actually broke out of prison in 2013 and remained at large for over a month before he was found and recaptured. Then, in 2018, Faïd broke out of prison again! This time, with the help of 3 accomplices and a helicopter. This guy is really resourceful, apparently. This time, he remained at large for three months before being recaptured.

In the south of France, crime families in Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and across the French Riviera established extortion rings at this time. In addition to this, large drug rings have been set up. Low income children and teenagers have recently become the targets of Le Milieu: they join the gang as a way of earning extra cash.

Le Milieu has become increasingly violent as the years have gone by. By the early 2000s, a group of French Maghrebians (Maghreb is used to describe the North African countries of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco) created Les Caïds des Cités, a group of mob members that controlled the rent controlled housing complexes in poor cities all across France.

In 2008, the murder rate skyrocketed in Corsica as a result of inter-gang fighting. In 2011, various North African gangs flooded the Parisian suburbs to introduce harder drugs such as crack cocaine into the city. In 2011 as well, members of the Corsican gangs Valinco, Brise de Mer, and Venzolasca broke into the Museum of Fine ArtsinAjaccio, Corsicaand stole a massive amount of art. In 2012, Les Caïds des Cités began trafficking drugs and weapons, and as a result of a trade gone wrong, killed 14 innocent people.

Le Milieu today

Montreuil, France by Damien Boilley – WikiCommons

Today, Le Milieu is headed by the Hornec crime family. The Hornec family took over Le Milieu in 1994 after Claude Genova was killed. Three brothers in particular control Le Milieu’s activities. The gang founded by the brothers is sometimes called “The H,” or “The Montreuil gang,” as the brothers were born in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil.

The Hornec gang is considered to be the most influential gang in the Paris area. They control prostitution, drug dealing, night clubs, illegal slot machines and more. The gang members are mostly teenage or adolescent boys from the suburbs of Paris.

The gang has money in construction in Paris, and they also own their own villa in the French Riviera. The Hornec game is mostly made up of French Romanis, otherwise known as gypsies. The Romanis typically live in camps that the French government are constantly trying to shut down. Romanis typically come from an area of Northern India.

The French police’s rap sheet for mobster Jules Bonnot – WikiCommons

In addition to Paris, the Hornec gang can be found in Marseille, Montpellier and Grenoble.

Since the early 1900s, there have been 12 major gangs in France:

  • Bonnot gang 1911-1912
  • Gang des Tractions Avant 1915-1950s
  • Unione Corse 1920-present
  • Bande des Trois Canards 1950-1965
  • Gang de la Brise de Mer 1970s-present
  • Hornec gang 1980-present
  • Gang des postiches 1981-1986
  • Rédoine Faïd gang 1990-2013
  • Les Caïds des Cités 2000-present
  • Venzolasca Gang 2010-present
  • Valinco Gang – 2011-present
  • La bande du Petit Bar 2013-present


Did you know anything about Le Milieu before you read this article? I know I didn’t, but I hope I’ve been able to teach you a lot about organized crime in France! It’s not the easiest topic to learn about, or write about, but I think it deserves to be discussed.

Do you want to learn even more about France? Hop on one of our walking tours in Paris, and you’re sure to discover so much. Our name isn’t Discover Walks for nothing, after all! Click here for more details and to book your tour!

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