Is luck finally running out for the Pink Panther gang behind £300M jewel heists? Greek cops snare two suspects as Dutch police are ‘poised to pounce’ on more of the armed robbers after international game of cat and mouse
- Pink Panthers have a friendly name but a fearsome reputation of hard crime
- But now Holland police say they are close to bringing in top ringleaders
They may be named after a Peter Sellers comedy, but the Pink Panther gang have left their many victims with little to laugh about after stealing an estimated £300million worth of jewellery over four decades of robberies.
But the reign of the Pink Panthers could soon be coming to an end.
Police in Holland say they are closing in on suspects from the gang’s last big heist, which saw gems worth more than £26.5million stolen.
And in Greece, Athens Police say they have caught two of a five-strong team suspected of an armed robbery at a Rolex store in December.
In that heist 24 luxury watches, with an estimated total value of £135,000, were taken.
The six armed robbers who stole jewelry from TEFAF as captured in surveillance footage
The robbery at Tefaf Maastricht in the middle of the day last year where £26.5million was taken
Video from the scene showed a man wearing a blazer and baseball cap using what appears to be a sledgehammer to smash the glass display case of a jeweller’s stand (left). The man is seen repeatedly hitting the display case as three other men, also dressed in blazers, stand guard around him – one of whom appears to be holding a gun (right)
Dutch art historian Arthur Brand, 53, believes the number could finally be up for the group. He said: ‘You know the Pink Panthers are not easy to catch.
‘I know the team working on it, they are very determined to catch these guys and they will’, the Times reported.
A crack team of at least 20 officers are said to be imminently preparing to pounce on Balkans-originated suspects.
Among their number is understood to be a Montenegrin and an Albanian who are in hiding.
Dutch art historian Arthur Brand, 53, believes the number could be up for the Pink Panthers
The Pink Panthers use beautiful women such as Bojana Mitic (pictured) in their robberies. Mitic drove an Audi through a Dubai mall while her accomplices robbed a £1.9million worth of gems
Caught: But the Panthers’ days could be numbered as several key members have been arrested, including Nebojsa Denic (left) and Milan Jovetic (right) , who took part in the 2003 £23million Graff Diamonds robbery
This case is among a dossier of information prepared on 160 heists around Europe.
Those raids are said to have taken place in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
The Pink Panthers got their nickname after a 2003 London robbery when a thief hid a diamond in a pot of cream – similar to a plot from the Pink Panther films starring Peter Sellers.
The gang is believed to be made up of 200 soldiers, veterans of the Bosnian war, and has been operating since the early 1980s.
They only appear to go for high-value and high-stake robberies.
Scotland Yard have released this image of suspect Vinko Osmakcic taken at the arts fair on the day of the theft in July 2017
And, more often than not their signature or calling card is the calm method they carry out the raids – often in disguises.
They have been linked to a series of high value diamond thefts across the world. Interpol say between 1999 and 2015 they stole more than £290million in jewels from 380 armed robberies.
They include a raid at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes in 1984 when three gun-toting crooks stormed a jewellery ship and cleared its shelves of £39million of gems.
The gang is also said to be responsible for the biggest jewel theft in Japan – with more than £22m worth of gems swiped from a Tokyo store in 2004.
In July 2015, a thief linked to the network stole £100m worth of jewels from a diamond exhibition in Cannes.
Scotland Yard is also currently hunting for a suspect over the theft of three diamond rings from a Chelsea arts fair.
Vinko Osmakcic is being sought in connection with the July 4 incident at the Masterpiece London event.
The suspect and an accomplice is believed to have strolled over a stand containing the gems, picked the lock before making off.
The Met’s supect Osmakcic is wanted over a nuber of high value diamond thefts across Europe.
The returns of the Pink Panthers
2003 – Two members of the gang target London’s Graaf ‘Jewellery Salon’ for a £23million diamond heist that was at the time the largest in British history. It earns them the Pink Panther nickname, as one gem is found under a jar of face cream. Graaf’s stores in London are targeted a number of times including in 2005.
2005 – A jewellery store in Saint-Tropez was targeted by robbers wearing floral patterned t-shirts, who made their escape in a speed boat. The gang was said to have painted a nearby bench before they struck to stop potential witnesses from sitting there.
2007 – The Pink Panthers are suspected of smash and grab jewellery robberies in Tokyo and get away with a combined haul of £1.7million. The raids saw staff sprayed with tear gas as the valuables were snatched.
2013 – A thief in a baseball cap and covering his face strikes at the luxury Carlton Hotel in Cannes where a diamond exhibition is being held. He pulled out a handgun and made his getaway with an estimated £89million of gems.
2018 – Paris’s Ritz Hotel is hit by a gang of five men all believed to be Pink Panther members. They got in through the service entrance before smashing the jewellery stands and getting away with £4million of the precious stones. The were all recovered later.
2022 – Four armed thieves break into the art fair TEFAF Maastricht, with one said to be holding a mallet. They were all wearing Peaky Blinders style flat caps and got away with gems worth more than €30 million. A yellow diamond valued at €26 million as well as valuable Cartier earrings were taken
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