Friday, 22 September 2023, 11:50
There are criminals who try to keep their lives simple so as not to raise suspicions about their illegal activities. However, this was not the case with a Marbella-based gang that targeted luxury hotels and apartments, according to police investigators. The ringleader was a regular in some of the most exclusive establishments on the Costa del Sol and rarely wore clothes that were not designer labels.
This was confirmed by the Guardia Civil, who uncovered the fact that the suspect, an Algerian man with legal residence in France, had at least nine different identities under which he moved around Europe without leaving any trace of his movements. He was described as a "hyper-elusive" criminal who was accustomed to acting stealthily, despite leading a fast-paced life.
The French authorities, in collaboration with Europol, have now arrested the ringleader and his two collaborators, Spanish and French individuals, for allegedly committing a dozen robberies in luxury hotel and apartment complexes in Spain and France, making off with a haul of some 4.5 million euros.
Police officers had been on the trail of this criminal organisation since August last year, when they became aware of five robberies in high-end apartment in a resort in Chiclana de la Frontera, Cadiz. After the first investigations, they detected that the network specialised in cracking safes and kept a close watch on their victims.
The gang’s modus operandi was to have two gang members stay in the hotels where they were going to operate in order to spot wealthy guests. Without attracting the attention of the other guests, they would enter the target room using a false key. Once inside, they would break open the safe and make off with all its valuable contents.
After a meticulous collection of evidence and statement, the investigation focused on an international and itinerant criminal group based in Marbella. In the first phase of the police operation, one of the gang members, a French national who had assumed the identity of a wealthy family man on holiday was arrested at a villa in Calle Ébano. Stolen items were recovered from a false ceiling in the villa along with fake identity documents, mobile phones and luxury watches among other goods.
The documentation and evidence obtained in the Marbella property allowed the full identification of the leader of the group, who used up to nine false identities from countries such as Belgium, Germany, France and Spain, where he had previous convictions for similar acts, with different identities in some of them.
A joint investigation was launched between the Spanish and French authorities, with the involvement of Europol. As a result of this collaboration, two other members of the group were arrested when they had just committed a robbery at a luxury hotel beside the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Jewellery and luxury handbags, all valued at 450,000 euros, were recovered and returned to their legitimate owners.
Investigators linked the gang to similar robberies in Paris and Cannes, with a haul of 1.5 million euros in stolen items, among twelve robberies with a total value of 4.5 million euros attributed to them.
After a court hearing in Paris, the two detainees were remanded in custody, pending their extradition to Spain to answer for the crimes committed in the country.
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