EU law enforcement agency Europol has hosted a conference on high-value jewellery theft.
Held at its headquarters in The Hague, the event attracted more than 70 experts from a number of EU member states, as well as delegates from other European countries, the Americas and Asia. A selection of watch and jewellery makers also attended the conference.
According to Europol, EU countries are currently facing a rise in organised thefts from jewellery stores. The agency says gangs from South America have been travelling to Europe specifically to raid retailers that sell valuable jewellery items. The conference was organised in response to these groups’ using increasingly violent tactics, sometimes “ram raiding” shops with heavy vehicles.
Europol’s Head of Serious and Organised Crime, Michael Rauschenbach, commented: “Criminals are becoming more inventive, as well as using technology to their advantage to carry out the most daring robberies and burglaries, as we have seen in the case of the ‘Pink Panther thieves’.
“Europol is committed to staying one step ahead of them by capitalising on our resources to ensure that their deeds do not go unpunished. Our success also depends on inter-agency cooperation and we are pleased that we could bring together so many experts from Europe and beyond to serve one common purpose – making Europe a safer place for the benefit of our citizens.”
The aim of the event was to build on an existing network of experts created by Interpol’s “Pink Panther” project, which came to an end last year. Interpol’s initiative focussed on robberies committed by perpetrators from the Western Balkans, but Europol’s Diamond project will extend its focus.
At the end of the conference, delegates agreed to establish an early warning system to alert shop owners that jewellery thieves might be operating in their area, and set up a system that would allow EU law enforcement agencies to track stolen jewellery and watches. Europol also pledged to work more closely alongside private sector partners in an effort to tackle this type of organised criminal activity.
In November last year, the leader of a Romanian gang of thieves was jailed for 24 years by a Bucharest court for overseeing a gang of over 100 professional burglars who travelled around Europe targeting high-end jewellers.
Adrian Botez and his highly-organised group were said by prosecutors to have made €8.5 million raiding shops in countries including Italy, France, the UK, Germany, Austria and Denmark over a two-year period.
The gang would plan its robberies in minute detail, spending time assessing shops’ security arrangements and making sure its members would be able to flee the scene once they had grabbed as many valuables as possible. Members of the gang were cumulatively sentenced to a total of 94 years.