After 15 Years, Thieves Behind French Heist Surface In Serbia

 

They believed they were safe but a few blood drops betrayed them. 15 years after a daring robbery at a French jewellery store, the four alleged perpetrators have been found — in Serbia.

The Belfort job had all the hallmarks of a “Pink Panther” operation, the modus operandi used by an international jewel thief network of Serbs and Montenegrins responsible for some of the most audacious robberies of the past two decades.

Between 1999 and 2015, these criminals are thought to have carried out at least 380 armed robberies, targeting high-end jewellery stores and snatching 334 million euros ($391 million) worth of loot, Interpol says.

One morning in September 2003, a group of masked men burst into a jewellery shop in Belfort, a town in eastern France just 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the Swiss border.

One pulled a handgun, while the others smashed open the glass cases, snatching 350,000 euros worth of jewellery and watches before fleeing — all within the space of a minute.

Police later managed to arrest their Serbian fences, one of whom had a stolen watch on his wrist.

But the thieves themselves were never caught.

Nor were they identified until 2013 following progress in a forensic investigation into traces of blood on one of the glass cabinets, on a cupboard and on a Cartier box.

By analysing the DNA, they identified two Serb nationals who were unknown in France but wanted in Austria: “Zica” and “Boka”, both of them 41 years old.

And by crosschecking their phone records, they also found the other two suspected of involvement in the robbery: “Sasa”, 37, and “Luka”, 48.

‘Cult of the criminal’

All four come from Uzice, a once prosperous industrial town some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Belgrade which has since fallen on hard times.

“Most of these criminals originate from Nis, Cacak and Uzice,” the town’s prosecutor Ljubisa Dragasevic told AFP, explaining that many in this western region end up turning to crime due to problems making ends meet.

But there is also “the cult of the criminal within society, the tough guys”, he said.

“In such circles, these activities overseas are a matter of prestige. They… see themselves as defenders of poor Serb victims of the West,” the prosecutor said.

Even though they have been identified, the four remain out of reach for the French justice system because Serbia does not extradite its citizens.

Over the past decade, France and Serbia developed close judicial ties following the 2009 murder of a French football fan in Belgrade, prompting a French judge to demand that the four be summoned to a hearing before a Serbia prosecutor.

Funding a luxury lifestyle

At the hearing in November, all four denied involvement in the robbery.

If they were in Belfort at the time, they were there for “techno music parties”, one claimed. Another said they were there “to buy second-hand cars”.

Boka had just been jailed over a fatal car accident, while shortly after the November hearing, Zica and Sasa began serving five years for stealing watches worth almost 950,000 euros from a Hamburg jeweller in 2014.

Several of them are also suspected of involvement in robberies in Switzerland and The Netherlands.

Such audacious robberies fund a lavish lifestyle back home, Dragasevic says, explaining that their takings are quickly spent “in bars and restaurants, taking cocaine, paying for prostitutes… buying luxury cars and expensive clothes” and often at expensive tourist sites.

“Such a lifestyle requires a lot of money, which they spend quickly and then return to their criminal activities,” he added.

Statute of limitations expiring

Their activities are not just limited to hitting jewellery stores, with one Serb investigator saying they also link up with Albanian gangs to smuggle drugs to the West.

The money is also used for loansharking, financing younger criminals, or investing in property, bars and restaurants, he said.

But they never stage robberies on home territory, their “refuge”.

With extradition out of the question, if France wants a trial to be held in Serbia over Belfort, as happened with the Hamburg heist, the justice system will need to transfer the case to Belgrade.

That would have to happen quickly, however, as the 15-year statute of limitations expires on September 19.

“Everything should be done quickly so we can prosecute the criminals,” Serbia’s deputy prosecutor Gordana Janicijevic told AFP.

If found guilty, the perpetrators could face up to 15 years behind bars.

Otherwise, French prosecutors will have to fall back on a conviction in absentia and the issuing of an international arrest warrant — which would mean the four thieves could no longer leave Serbia without risking arrest and extradition.

AFP

 

Police Parade Suspected kidnappers In Kogi

Police Parade Suspected kidnappers In KogiOver 20 criminals have been arrested and paraded by the Kogi State Police Command.

According to the Commissioner of Police, Wilson Inalegwu, the culprits are mostly suspected kidnappers and robbers.

They were picked up by men of the State Anti-Robbery Squad, (SARS), from different locations in Kogi state.

Meanwhile, the CP believes that the arrest is just the beginning of the war he is waging against criminals in the state.

“We recovered AK 47 rifles from the suspected kidnappers who were already planning to go and Kidnap innocent travelers – at their hide outs, we were able to intercept them.”

Inalegwu further revealed that a notorious kidnapper who had been on the police’ “wanted list”, was also apprehended in Kogi east.

The operations went further to Lokoja, Ayingba and Okenne areas and the CP stated that significant arrests were made through the support of the public.

According to him, there are still a number of suspects which the Police is following – however, he expressed optimism that they would be in custody in the shortest time possible.

Man Sentenced To Death For Murder And 200 Naira Robbery

Nigerian To Be Executed In Singapore, Clemency Appeal RejectedA man, Idowu Kayode, has been sentenced to death by hanging over murder and robbery of 200 Naira.

Justice K. M. Akano of the High Court in Osogbo, handed down the capital punishment on Thursday.

At the hearing, it was learnt that on August 3, 2009 two men – Idowu and Femi – awakened Mrs Aina Ogbonmoniyi at about 1:00 a.m. local time and asked her how much she had at home, but they could not find anything other than a 200 Naira note in her room.

After their search yielded no tangible result, they asked her to awaken her neighbour, Mrs Florence Ajayi.

One of the assailants took a cutlass from Mrs Aina’s room and forced their way into her neighbour’s room.

While in Mr Ajayi’s room, they asked her how much she had at home, pushed her to the floor and went back to lock Mrs Aina inside her room.

While giving her testimony in court, Mrs Aina said that “after the two assailant left the scene of the crime she found her neighbour dead”.

In a document put before the High court by Principal State counsel, Mr Faremi Moses, the statement of Mrs Aina Ogbomoniyi read: ” I was invited to police station to identify who robbed me and killed one Florence Ajayi Akinyemi on 3rd.

“Out of the eight people, men of same height placed on the same line, I looked round and identified Kayode and Femi because they are the ones that robbed me on the day of the incident and killed the deceased, Florence Ajayi.

“Nobody taught me or showed me anybody to be pointed or identify”.

Delivering judgement, Justice Akano said that “the convict is guilty of conspiracy, murder and armed robbery”, and sentenced him to death by hanging.

iPhone 5 over $100,000 stolen in Japan before launch

With the much-awaited launch of the iphone5 in Japan, the honour of being among the first to get their hands on the iPhone 5 has gone a bit awkward as thieves in Japan broke into carrier stores and carted away over $100,000 worth of Apple’s latest smartphone.

The Wall Street Journal reports that both Softbank and KDDI’s au were the victims of burglaries just hours before the iPhone 5 was set to go on sale. Three separate incidents across Osaka resulted in a total of 191 phones being lifted. Police estimated the largest heist, which saw 116 units nabbed from Softbank, was worth an estimated 7.45 million yen ($95,000).

It’s not clear whether the incidents were connected, though proximity and timing makes it possible that all three burglaries were committed by the same perpetrators.

The high value of Apple devices makes them frequent targets of theft. Apple has had difficulty with smash-and-grab burglaries that take advantage of the glass doors in many of its retail stores. One recent high-profile incident involved a BMW SUV crashing through a storefront in Temecula, California.

Friday morning’s burglaries do slightly mar the launch of Apple’s new gadget, but expected record sales should more than make up for the unfortunate incidents. Apple pre-sold more than 2 million iPhone 5 units in the first 24 hours of availability, and the company’s own estimates suggest new orders won’t be shipped for 3-4 weeks.

In nine countries around the world, legitimate owners of the iPhone 5 will begin purchasing the iPhone 5 on Friday. The Next Web obtained two units for testing the new HD Voice feature on the Telstra network in Australia. Call quality was clearly better with the devices, though it could still stand for improvement.

Teardown experts’ iFixit also made their way out to Australia to get early access to the iPhone 5. After breaking down the handset, they found it to be substantially more repairable than previous versions of the iPhone.