‘Pink Panther’ thieves wanted by Interpol found in Serbia after 15 years


Uzice, Serbia,jul 21:
They believed they were safe but a few blood drops betrayed them: 15 years after a daring robbery at a French jewellery store, the four alleged perpetrators have been found — in Serbia. The Belfort job had all the hallmarks of a “Pink Panther” operation, the modus operandi used by an international jewel thief network of Serbs and Montenegrins responsible for some of the most audacious robberies of the past two decades.
Between 1999 and 2015, these criminals are thought to have carried out at least 380 armed robberies, targeting high-end jewellery stores and snatching 334 million euros (USD 391 million) worth of loot, Interpol says.One morning in September 2003, a group of masked men burst into a jewellery shop in Belfort, a town in eastern France just 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the Swiss border.One pulled a handgun, while the others smashed open the glass cases, snatching 350,000 euros worth of jewellery and watches before fleeing — all within the space of a minute. Police later managed to arrest their Serbian fences, one of whom had a stolen watch on his wrist. But the thieves themselves were never caught. Nor were they identified until 2013 following progress in a forensic investigation into traces of blood on one of the glass cabinets, on a cupboard and on a Cartier box.
By analysing the DNA, they identified two Serb nationals who were unknown in France but wanted in Austria: “Zica” and “Boka”, both of them 41 years old.
And by crosschecking their phone records, they also found the other two suspected of involvement in the robbery: “Sasa”, 37, and “Luka”, 48.’Cult of the criminal’
All four come from Uzice, a once prosperous industrial town some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Belgrade which has since fallen on hard times. “Even though they have been identified, the four remain out of reach for the French justice system because Serbia does not extradite its citizens.Over the past decade, France and Serbia developed close judicial ties following the 2009 murder of a French football fan in Belgrade, prompting a French judge to demand that the four be summoned to a hearing .


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