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Compensation scam couple who posed as terror attack victims jailed

AOL 2017-04-21 17:09:22

A couple who posed as victims of the Paris and Nice terror attacks in bids for compensation have been jailed.

The pair were given suspended prison terms in December after pocketing £50,000 from victims' funds after the November 2015 Paris slaughter.

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But this week, Sasa Damjanovic, 36, and Vera Vasic, 29, were jailed for 12 and seven years respectively when they tried to pull the same con after July's truck attack on the French Riviera.

A court in Grasse, in southern France, heard the couple falsely claimed to have been hurt when Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel ploughed an HGV into crowds on the Nice seafront, killing 86 and injuring more than 400.

Police officers and rescue workers stand near a van that ploughed into a crowd leaving a fireworks display in Nice last year

But just 20 minutes later, Damjanovic and Vasic drove to the hospital in Nice and presented themselves as victims.

When the authorities realised they were claiming injuries in both atrocities, an investigation was launched.

Phone records proved the Serbian nationals were at home, 550 miles away, at the time they claimed they were caught in a bomb blast at Paris' Stade de France.

And their accounts of being hurt in Nice differed from those of three other suspected scammers who said they were all together.

Prosecutor Valerie Tallone said: "You have not even been smart enough to coordinate statements: at the time of the attack, one said you were in the process of joining your car, the other that you were going to drink a shot. One says you were sought refuge in a building lobby, the other in a parking lot..."

Following the arrests of Damjanovic and Vasic, the other three suddenly withdrew their compensation claims, the court heard.

Defence lawyer Jean-Pierre Andréani said his clients, who sobbed throughout the hearing, lived off hand-outs, had death threats from loan sharks and were struggling after one of their children fell ill.

A young Muslim woman lights a candle outside the French Embassy in Paris in 2015

Roland Rodriguez, a lawyer for the official victim fund and who knew some of the injured, said: "On the evening of July 14, I tried to find out if my relatives were safe and sound.

"Twenty minutes later, they [Damjanovic and Vasic] went in a group to Nice to clutter the hospitals, the investigators and the whole chain of the compensation procedure.

"While there were still 86 lukewarm bodies on the Promenade des Anglais, they had only one idea: greed, to divert money from national solidarity."

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