Police recover purported Eva Peron tiara
Spanish and Italian police have recovered stolen jewels worth six million euros ($9 million), including a tiara that may have belonged to the late first lady of Argentina Eva Peron, the government said Wednesday.
The jewels, snatched in a complex sting involving counterfeit money, a fake Arab sheik and an accomplice hidden in a desk, were found in a safe in a luxury Milan hotel room in an operation carried out with Interpol, Spain's interior ministry said in a statement.
Seven suspects in the December 2009 heist, believed to be part of a Serbian crime group, were arrested in March 2011 in Switzerland, France and Italy and then extradited to Spain where they are awaiting trial, it said.
The group set up the con in November 2006 when two young men who spoke Italian bought around 20,000 euros' worth of jewels from a boutique in the eastern city of Valencia.
"This was the beginning of an elaborate deception since the only objective of this purchase was to gain the trust of the victim," the statement said.
Three years later, the pair returned to the shop to offer to put its owner in contact with a supposed Arab sheik who wanted to buy a huge amount of jewellery for his wives.
In December 2009, the fake sheik and a man identified as his banker met with a female employee of the jewellery shop at a business centre to pay for jewels worth 10.5 million euros.
"As the bundles were being counted, they were placed in the drawers of a desk. But the desk had a false bottom and inside it was hidden a short person who replaced the bundles of real money with bundles in which only the top and bottom bills were real," the statement said.
When the jewellery store employee began to inspect the bundles of cash the suspects shoved her and threatened to kill her before running away with the jewellery.
"Among the jewels that were stolen was a tiara that may have belonged to Eva Peron," the statement said.
Italian police revealed some of the details of the discovery of the jewels on June 23. At the time they said they were confident that they would be able to recover more of the jewels that were stolen by the group.
© 2011 AFP