Suspected Pink Panther gets nine-year jail term

The trial took place under heavy security Keystone

A 39-year-old man from Montenegro, believed to belong to the notorious Pink Panthers, has been sentenced by a Geneva court to nine years in jail for jewellery thefts in Geneva and Lucerne, as well as attempted robberies in Zurich.

This content was published on September 20, 2013 and agencies

The prosecutor had demanded a ten-year prison term for the accused, who was found guilty on Thursday on the charges of robbery, attempted robbery and theft as part of a criminal gang.

The man was arrested a few days after a heist in a Lucerne jewellery store in March 2012, when 78 watches worth CHF1.3 million ($1.4 million)) were stolen. The attack lasted less than 90 seconds, with employees being threatened with a blank pistol.

The thieves were caught in a flat 60 kilometres from Lucerne, but only one watch was recovered.

The Geneva robbery took place in 2009. Along with three accomplices – two who remain unidentified – he attacked a shop on the affluent Rue du Rhône, stealing jewellery worth CHF2.6 million. The stolen goods were never recovered.

The accused was also implicated in two attempted robberies against jewellers on Zurich’s ritzy Bahnhofstrasse in 2003 and 2008.

The judge considered the man’s implication as part of a criminal gang and the considerable damage inflicted on the two boutiques as aggravating circumstances. He was also sentenced the accused to pay the Geneva jeweller CHF10,000 compensation and CHF400,000 in damages.

High security

The trial was held under high security, with armed police surrounding and inside the court building, as well as surveillance helicopters flying over regularly. There were concerns after a number of suspected Pink Panthers made a spectacular escape from Swiss prisons.

The man’s lawyer said his client would appeal, stating that he was not given a fair trial because the court had been influenced by the security measures.

The ‘Pink Panther’ gang, named after the 1964 movie of the same name starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, was formed after the conflict in former Yugoslavia. The gang is believed to contain some 220 members who have carried out heists in jewellery stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States.

Interpol estimates that they have snatched valuables worth nearly $500 million (CHF455 million) since 1999.

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