Airline pickpocket strikes as passengers sleep

PARIS Wed Jan 6, 2010 2:07pm EST

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner puts a piece of foreign currency back in his wallet after showing off the contents of his wallet to a photographer during a break in his testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Financial Services on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner puts a piece of foreign currency back in his wallet after showing off the contents of his wallet to a photographer during a break in his testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government and Financial Services on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg

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PARIS (Reuters) - French police are investigating whether a pickpocket stole thousands of euros from passengers as they slept on an Air France flight from Tokyo to Paris.

"There is an investigation under way," a spokesman for the border police at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris said when asked to confirm a report on the website of the Le Figaro.

The paper said around 4,000 euros ($5,744) appeared to have been stolen from five business class passengers as they slept on the overnight flight.

"On this flight, which takes off from Tokyo Narita at 10 p.m., passengers often sleep deeply before waking up shortly before arriving in Paris at around 4 a.m.," Le Figaro quoted one of the alleged victims as saying.

A woman alerted the cabin crew when she woke to find a large sum missing, the passenger said.

"This lady called staff to say that all the cash in her handbag had been stolen. Counting Swiss francs, euros and yen, there was apparently about 3,000 euros," the passenger said.

A spokeswoman for Air France said the pilot had alerted police who were waiting when the flight touched down.

"I would say that it is really extremely rare to have several passengers at once reporting thefts on board," she said.

She said that while the company was responsible for baggage carried in the hold, passengers had responsibility for possessions they had with them in the cabin.

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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