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France refuses to extradite ‘Pink Panther’

Police searched in vain for the Pink Panther escapee in May Keystone

A French court has turned down a Swiss extradition request for a member of the “Pink Panther” gang of jewel thieves who was recently captured on French territory four months after breaking free from a Lausanne prison.

The 47-year-old, with dual French and Macedonian citizenship, cannot be sent back to Switzerland because France does not extradite its own nationals, the court in Nimes ruled on Wednesday.

France has yet to consider an extradition request from Macedonia where the escapee was convicted of murder in 1998.

The man had been serving a sentence for armed robbery, drugs and weapons offences, but escaped from Bois-Mermet prison in Lausanne in May, scaling the walls with four other prisoners – one of them a fellow Pink Panther gang member – with the help of three accomplices.

Another Pink Panther escaped from a prison in canton Vaud in a separate break-out in July.

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 (CHF460 million) since 1999.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR