Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Pink Panther Gang

Who doesn’t like a good heist story, particularly one named after the Peter Sellers 1970’s movie series “The Pink Panther”. The gang was named after a real life robbery of the London jewelers Graff in 2003. The robbers hid a gem in a jar of cold cream, a scenario straight out of the 1975 movie “The Return of the Pink Panther”. In under 40 seconds this video explains precisely how the 2003 heist was perpetrated. Video appears right under the title ...

What caught my attention was the recent headline in Artnet News: “Dutch Police Are Closing In on the So-Called ‘Pink Panther Gang’ Behind the Astonishing Daytime Diamond Heist at TEFAF Maastricht.” TEFAF stands for The European Fine Arts Fair that started in Maastricht the Netherlands and remains there with an offshoot with more modern and contemporary art in New York. This year’s fair in Maastricht closed yesterday, and included 270 of the best art galleries around the world ...

Last year, when TEFAF reopened after a two-year Covid hiatus, four well-dressed visitors at the booth of a Bond street jeweler, Symbolic & Chase, used a sledgehammer to smash a case and make off with the exhibited jewelry. They got away with 10 pieces, the most valuable, a 114-carat diamond necklace purported to be worth $29 million. Two suspects were arrested shortly thereafter but two got away.

The Pink Panthers are believed to be responsible for at least 370 heists. Estimates have put the groups' takings at around US$500 million. These are most likely retail figures. There are estimated to be 300-400 men and women (the published numbers vary up to 800) in the gang from former Yugoslavian states such as Serbia and Montenegro. They are further believed to be remnants of the Bosnian War who have made use of their militaristic skills.

In 2016 the Magazine Town and Country published a story saying, “Early Monday morning, five armed men disguised as police officers broke into Kim Kardashian's hotel room in Paris, held her at gunpoint, and stole over $11 million of jewelry. Few criminals have the wherewithal to pull off a heist like that and leave no trail, so it's already rumored that the infamous Pink Panthers were behind that robbery as well.”

Why are these thieves so successful? They differentiate themselves from other organized crime groups with the organization of their operations. Attractive women in expensive clothes and jewelry scout out the possibilities. Never more than five execute any strike. They try to avoid violence by striking suddenly and with impact like the example shown in the video above where they rammed two Audis into the jewelry shop in a Dubai mall. They act swiftly and with precision. They are not rummaging around but know what they have come for, get it and get out.

Over the years Interpol (The International Criminal Police Organization) has made inroads and captured a number of members of the Pink Panthers and learned of their structure and modus operandi. Interestingly enough the gang itself only receives a portion of the takings, estimated at 40%. Diamond buyers make most of the money by selling the jewels in Antwerp, Belgium where the majority of the black-market deals are made.

Keeping the large organization decentralized helps to hide the gang’s order of command and the identity of the leadership is still unknown.

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