Swiss court jails 'Pink Panther' for seven years
A man believed to be a member of the celebrated Pink Panthers criminal gang was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Lausanne court on Friday for his role in the robberies of two jewellery shops.
The 38-year-old Serb served as the getaway driver in the robberies at the Beau-Rivage Palace hotel in April 2010 and from a boutique in Schaffhausen in March 2011.
A haul of 150 watches and 66 pieces of jewellery, worth around 1.8 million francs was taken from the armed holdup of the Schaffhausen shop and was never recovered.
Watches and jewellery worth 500 francs were stolen from the hotel in the Vaud capital, booty that has also not been recovered.
The Serb, one of five people believed involved in the heists, was arrested in Montenegro and extradited to Switzerland last year.
The judges in the case ruled that the man was involved in “particularly serious” robberies, participating in “brutal attacks of a kind that terrorized victim” while acting solely for financial gain, the ATS news service reported.
He also refused to cooperate with authorities and did not apologize for his actions, the court said, according to ATS.
The man was convicted on the basis of DNA evidence found on the two luxury cars involved in the robberies.
He was also identified in a surveillance video at the Schaffhausen watch and jewellery shop.
The defendant maintained that he had simply stolen the cars, believing they were destined to be resold, a thesis that the judges did not accept, ATS said.
The court decision comes after a Geneva court last month sentenced an alleged member of the Pink Panthers gang to nine years in jail for his role in multimillion-franc jewellery robberies in Geneva and Lucerne, along with an attempted heist in Zurich.
The 39-year-old man, originally from Montenegro,m was convicted for holdups committed between 2003.
According to Interpol, the Pink Panthers gang have snatched jewels with a total value of more than €330 million.
The alleged robberies of the group, reportedly created out of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, were frequently executed with breathtaking speed and precision.
Two other members of the gang made a sensational escape with three other inmates from a prison near Lausanne in May using weapons and tools passed to them by accomplices on the outside.
Two inmates were quickly rounded up. One of the Pink Panthers’ members, a 47-year-old man, born in Montenegro but with French and Macedonian citizenships, was caught last month by French police near his home near Avignon.
Authorities in France were unable to extradite him to Switzerland because laws protect French citizens from being extradited to other countries.
Meanwhile, the Tribune de Genève reported on Friday that Geneva authorities are detaining two Serbs suspected of being involved in two watch and jewellery robberies in the Swiss city last summer.
The two men deny being members of the Pink Panthers.