A Romanian jewel thief who ran a crime “academy” has been jailed for 24 years by a Bucharest court.
Adrian Botez, who was known as the “supreme commander” of the group, oversaw a gang of 100 professional jewel thieves that made millions of euros from targeting stores selling luxury goods across Europe.
Prosecutors estimate the gang, which was run like a military organisation, amassed a fortune of some €8.5 million after raiding high-end shops in Italy, France, the UK, Germany, Austria and Denmark over a two-year period. A Bucharest tribunal heard that raids carried out by members of the group were often over in less than 60 seconds.
Prosecutors linked the gang to 29 robberies and noted that the group had a pyramidal structure, with Botez at the top, overseeing several lieutenants heading up separate units. The 38-year-old crime gang boss was already in prison for attempted murder when he was sentenced for the robberies.
The lower orders of the gang, typically young adults and minors with troubled backgrounds recruited from the streets of Neamt County, would carry out the thefts while more senior members focused on training and strategy. The thieves would be paid a small amount of money to go to the country the next robbery was due to take place in after undergoing a programme of intensive training in Romania.
Before carrying out raids, the group would plan its crimes in minute detail, assessing shops’ security arrangements and making sure they were able to flee the scene of robberies quickly and easily. Members of the gang would incapacitate security guards and use axes and hammers to smash shop windows and then grab as much high-value stock as possible. They would then deposit their loot in holes they had dug earlier and scatter, leaving accomplices to collect the goods they stole later.
The group was caught after police from Romania, Belgium and the UK launched a joint investigation into its activities. Cumulatively, members of the gang were sentenced to a total of 94 years.
Before being allowed to join the gang, would-be members were forced to sign a loyalty agreement and supply the names and addresses of loved ones. They were also told to hand over DNA samples and sign a contract.
News of Botez’s sentencing comes just weeks after a gang of men armed with AK-47s raided a jewellery shop in Belgium. The Cora centre in Chatelineau had to be evacuated after the masked gangsters caused panic among shoppers by smashing glass cabinets. No one was harmed in the failed heist. Police and local media were quick to stress that the attempted robbery had no links to Islamist terrorism.