Italian cops nab 'Pink Panther' jewel gang suspect: Interpol

14th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Italian police have seized a suspected member of the "Pink Panther" gang of international jewel thieves, Interpol said Friday, in the latest blow against the Balkan crime network.

Radovan Jelusic, a 39-year-old Montenegrin who is wanted in Cyprus, Japan and several other countries, was arrested in Rome by Italian detectives, the international police agency said in a statement.

"Jelusic, who is suspected of involvement in the 2007 armed robbery of a jewellery store in the Ginza district of Tokyo, was in possession of a forged Croatian passport when located," the statement said.

Interpol did not say when the arrest was carried out, but a report on the online version of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said that the police had swooped on Tuesday.

Jelusic's arrest came less than two weeks after that of a suspected accomplice, 24-year-old Bojan Vuckovic, a Serbian wanted in Austria for an armed robbery in Vienna, who was detained in Montenegro this month.

In turn, both arrests came after several high-profile police successes against the Pink Panther gang, a once seemingly untouchable alliance of thieves drawn from paramilitary circles in the former Yugoslavia.

"These successes are due to the willingness of law enforcement to work together, and are a reflection on the hard work and professionalism of all the officers involved," said Interpol executive director Jean-Michel Louboutin.

"It is clear that as the amount of information shared with Interpol and its network of 188 member countries increases, so too is the number of Pink Panther members being located, identified and arrested."

Interpol set up a "Pink Panther" office in 2007 after reports that Balkan smash-and-grab experts had stolen 250 million euros (310 million dollars) worth of gems and jewellery in a decade of brazen international raids.

The gang were given their nickname after British detectives found a diamond ring hidden in a jar of face cream, as had been the fictional "Pink Panther" gem in the 1963 film comedy of the same name starring Peter Sellers.

© 2010 AFP

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