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Crooks Copper Bottomed Investments

A judge who's declared war on the copper cable thieves who've brought Europe to a standstill has accused justice officials in Romania of shielding the crooks who've built multi-million pound palace fortresses on the back of their crimes.

Magistrate Philippe Dujardin - who's leading a huge investigation into the wholesale theft of copper from Belgium's rail network - says entire neighbourhoods have been built in Romania by the Mafia gangs who run the racket.

"These are lawless enclaves, whole neighbourhoods and districts made up of palaces and fortresses built by the people who run this crime network," he said in a new report on the racket.

"They operate in their home country where they are apparently beyond the reach of the local law despite being completely unable to say how they earned their fortunes.

"It is our crippled railways, lost phone lines, paralysed hospitals which pay the price for these palaces," he added.

In Britain alone thefts of copper cable from rail and communications networks are estimated to cost nearly 800 million GBP a year.

And Railtrack reckon that the thefts have caused 16,000 hours of delays in the past three years.

But investigator Dujardin says the thieves will take astonishing risks for even the smallest amounts of cable.

"Only last week one thief was prepared to be shot rather then surrender a few metres of cable.

"They have no fear and no sense of even their own safety," he said.

Campaigner Dujardin is now leading a zero tolerance policy in Belgium's courts after ordering fellow judges to show "no mercy" to copper thieves.

Crooks are routinely jailed for three years for the smallest of scrap metal offences.

"The sentences should be the maximum and they should hurt.

"We must take the message to Romania that this sort of behaviour will no longer be tolerated," he said.

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