Five members of the world’s most elusive gang of jewel thieves were arrested Friday — but nearly 800 others remain at large.
Dubbed the “Pink Panthers” after a single stolen gem from a 2003 London heist was found in a tub of face cream, the network has become so notorious that dozens of Interpol investigators from 22 countries meet annually to compare notes.
On Friday, five crooks trying to make a smooth getaway in Barcelona were nabbed in one of the city’s upscale shopping areas after they snagged $443,000 worth of jewels in less than a minute, cops said.
The arrests came after German authorities tipped off police in Spain to the movements of the thieves.
The Pink Panthers have their roots in the former Yugoslavia, growing out of the war-torn country to conduct more than 380 robberies between 1999 and 2015, according to Interpol.
They’ve smashed an Audi into the glass doors of a mall in Dubai; escaped on bicycles from Tokyo cops; and used a speedboat in St. Tropez to make a getaway, according to a published report.
Gang members being arrested by police following a robbery attempt.
Their haul so far? Roughly $370 million, authorities say.
In 2003, three men in expensive suits and wigs rolled up to London’s Graff Diamonds and talked the guards into opening the doors for them.
Once inside, one of the thieves pulled out a Magnum .357.
It took three minutes to clear the shop of 47 pieces of jewelry worth roughly $30 million.
One of the Graff Diamonds thieves was later arrested in France, where police discovered his girlfriend had stashed a $653,000 blue diamond in her face cream in a scene straight out of the 1975 flick “The Return of the Pink Panther.”
When they do get arrested, the Pink Panthers don’t always stay behind bars. In 2013, three busted out of jail in Switzerland in separate incidents.
Two of the thieves were able to escape after accomplices drove a pickup truck into the side gate of the prison complex, put ladders over a barbed wire fence and laid down rifle fire to keep the prison guards at bay.
In December they targeted Ivan Petric, Croatia’s ambassador to Montenegro, by staking out her building for a week before swooping into her home to get their haul.
Petric’s jewels were found later in an apartment rented by Rakjo Causevic, who calls himself a founding member of the gang.
He told reporters the Pink Panthers were a group of “gentleman thieves” who never engaged in violence.
“Pink Panther is a system. We created a system. We were never violent. I am a thief, but a gentleman. We always made clear plans,” he said.