Member of Pink Panther jewel-thief gang arrested in Spain
Borko Ilincic, who is wanted for a string of high-profile and daring robberies across the world, is being held by Spanish police after being arrested leaving a hotel in a rental car
An alleged leader of the Pink Panther robbery gang who is wanted over a spectacular jewellery raid in Dubai has been arrested in Spain.
Borko Ilincic, 33, is suspected of being part of the team behind a £2.5 million diamond heist at the Wafi City Mall in Dubai in 2007, in which the suspects raced through the shopping complex in two stolen cars. Ilincic was held by Spanish police in the town of Alcala de Hanares, near Madrid, as he drove out of a hotel in a hire car.
Detectives said he was carrying a Bosnian passport when he was arrested, although Mr Ilincic’s Interpol wanted file lists him as being from Serbia, from where many of the Panther gang hail.
Believed to have been formed by smugglers and militiamen from the Balkan civil wars, the Panthers are known for their inventiveness and meticulous planning, which has earned them the grudging respect of their police adversaries.
In the Wafi Mall robbery, footage of was posted on YouTube, staff at the store were threatened with replica handguns. After fleeing, the robbers then torched their getaway vehicles in a bid to destroy evidence, but Dubai police were still able to recover DNA samples. Another suspect was arrested shortly after the robbery after he tried to collect jewellery from the car, which had secretly been left under police surveillance
The Panthers got their nickname after a diamond stolen during a raid in London was later found hidden in a jar of face cream, copying a tactic used in the original 1963 Pink Panther crime comedy, starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. They are thought to have robbed around £100 million worth of jewels from raids worldwide, fencing them off through Balkans crime networks.
Many of their robberies have taken place on the French Riviera, where the Pink Panther films were shot, although they have also struck as far away as Dubai, Tokyo, and London.
Their most spectacular prize to date is the Comtesse de Vendome, a 125-carat necklace of 116 diamonds worth around £20 million. It was stolen from a Tokyo jewellers in 2004, where raiders arrived on bicycles and disguised themselves with anti-pollution masks, using tear-gas to subdue store staff.
In Paris in 2004, they waited until store staff were distracted by a visit from the French prime minister’s wife before sneaking gems worth 11m euros from an unguarded safe, while in another robbery in Cannes, they put fresh paint on a bench opposite the jewellery store to deter potential witnesses from sitting there.