Pink Panthers' female member jailed ten years
A 45-year-old woman linked to the Pink Panthers gang who aided armed holdups of jewellery shops in the Swiss mountain resort of Verbier and three other locations was sentenced by a Lausanne criminal court on Monday to ten years in jail.
The Serb woman, regarded as a “professional criminal”, was convicted of participating in five armed robberies of boutiques in the cantons of Vaud and Valais between 2009 and 2011, according to media reports.
An economist by training, she played a key role in all the robberies, which resulted in losses of several million francs’ worth of jewellery, the court heard.
In the case of the Verbier holdup, she rented a chalet in the upscale Valais resort to shelter armed crooks who made off with booty valued at close to four million francs ($4.16 million) from a boutique in the village on November 3rd 2009, the ATS news agency said.
Afterward she planned, supported and physically participated in other heists from shops at Crans-Montana (another ski resort area in Valais), Lausanne and Rolle in the canton of Vaud, the news agency said.
The corpulent woman, who went by the nickname “Monstro”, admitted her role in the robbery of a Lausanne jewellery shop on April 20th 2011 and another one in Rolle In July the same year but otherwise provided confusing testimony, 24heures newspaper reported.
She was arrested on August 8th 2011 as she was planning another robbery and has been kept in preventive detention ever since.
An accomplice, also a Serb, who is currently imprisoned in France, which refuses to extradite him. was sentenced in absentia to four and a half years in jail, 24heures said.
The woman’s court appearance took place under high security.
In May 2013, a couple of members of the Pink Panthers gang made a sensational escape from a prison near Lausanne with three other prisoners.
Two of the inmates were rounded up the next day and one of the Pink Panthers, a 47-year-old Macedonian with French citizenship, was later arrested in August at his home near Avignon.
The other two escapees, including one alleged member of the gang, remained at large.
The Pink Panthers emerged from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia to become the most successful jewel thieves in the world, AFP reported last year.
According to Interpol, they have since 1999 snatched jewels with a value in excess of 330 million euros ($440 million) in heists that are often executed with breathtaking speed and precision.
They gained their nickname with a raid on a London branch of Graff Diamonds in 2003, in which two of them posed as wealthy would-be customers, persuading staff to open doors for them before helping themselves to diamonds worth millions.
Although one of the robbers was overpowered at the scene and another later arrested, only a fraction of the diamonds were recovered, one of them hidden in a pot of face cream.
That was reminiscent of a scene from the 1975 film "The Return of the Pink Panther" and resulted in a nickname that the gang members themselves adopted, wearing pink shirts for a subsequent raid in Zurich.