GERMAN authorities have detained a Serbian national – believed to be a member of the notorious Pink Panther gang – who has been tied to a daring jewellery shop heist in Limassol in 2012.
According to Limassol CID senior officer Ioannis Soteriades, the 40-year-old Serb was recently apprehended following a robbery in Germany. His DNA matched traces of genetic material left at the scene during the theft that took place on December 10, 2012.
On that day, four men wielding bats gained entry into a jewellery shop in Yermasoyia, holding the manager and employees at gunpoint. The gun later turned out to be a fake.
The gangsters used simple deception to enter the store. A well-dressed man in a suit appeared outside the shop, asking to be buzzed in. Once the door opened, his hidden accomplices rushed in.
The perpetrators smashed up the display cases and took off with jewellery and high-end watches worth some €950,000.
The store manager tried to tackle one of the men, but was knocked out with a blow to the back of the head.
As the perpetrators exited the shop they were spotted by passers-by who tried to apprehend them, but the men managed to flee. They later ditched their getaway car in the Amathounda area.
According to Soteriades, the 40-year-old man now in custody in Germany possessed ten different identification papers.
Cypriot police are in touch with German and Serbian authorities, from whom they expect more information shortly.
Once the information comes in, Soteriades said, police here plan to forward two files onto the Attorney-general’s office in order to secure a European arrest warrant and extradition of the Serb to Cyprus.
Soteriades said that in connection to the same robbery in Limassol, a European arrest warrant is already pending for another Serbian national, 42 years of age.
A week after the Yermasoyia incident, on December 17, 2012, a group of men hit another jewellery shop in the Enaerios area in Limassol, stealing items worth at least €500,000.
Named after ‘The Pink Panther’ series of crime comedy films, Pink Panthers is the name given by Interpol to an international jewel thief network, composed of ex-Yugoslavs from Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, which is responsible for some of the most audacious thefts in criminal history.
The gang has gained notoriety for their bold exploits and their ‘smash and grab’ modus operandi.
The breakthrough should also act as a face-saver for the police after a local officer working in the Interpol office in Nicosia made the blunder of placing a call to criminal elements in Serbia in relation to the gangland-style murder of businessman Phanos Kalopsidiotis in Ayia Napa on June 23.
Investigators were appointed following the monumental bungle where police – having being tipped off by the Interpol office in Belgrade, Serbia, about a planned murder in Cyprus – placed a call to the very gang believed to be behind the plot, thus alerting them to the fact that authorities were onto them.