"Peaky Blinders" Gang Behind Dozens of Robberies Steal Over $300M in Jewels
Robbers dressed as English country gentlemen.
Dutch police are reportedly getting close to capturing a gang of sharply dressed jewel thieves whose tendency to wear suits and flat caps on their heists has drawn comparisons to the historical drama Peaky Blinders. Hailing from the Balkans, the gang, also compared to the Pink Panther movie, allegedly made away with more than $32 million in gems from an art fair in Maastricht, Netherlands, last summer.
They have been connected to hundreds of jewel thefts going back 25 years, and their total haul is believed to be more than $357 million, the UK Times reported last week. Read on to find out more about the Peaky Blinders-inspired Pink Panthers, and why investigators think they're closing in.
Wild Heist Caught on Video
Investigators believe they've identified the suspects who pulled off the audacious heist at the TEFAF (the European Fine Art Foundation) fair last June. According to the Times, the gang strolled into the convention center dressed as English country gentlemen in flat caps (apparently to hide facial features from security cameras).
The gang walked to the stand of the elite London jeweler Symbolic & Chase, where they put on gloves. One smashed display cases with a sledgehammer while others held bystanders back with guns. They took a $26 million yellow diamond and expensive Cartier earrings before fleeing on electric scooters to a getaway car.
"Not Easy to Catch," Expert Says
Art investigator Arthur Brand, 53, known as the "Indiana Jones of the art world" for tracking down missing valuables, was the first to identify the Maastricht robbery as the work of the Balkans gang, the Times reported. He has been working with detectives on the case and believes the gang's days are numbered.
"You know the Pink Panthers are not easy to catch," Brand told the Times. "It is a big, big breakthrough. I know the team working on it, they are very determined to catch these guys and they will. They are not far off."
Who Are The Pink Panthers?
The gang earned its nickname from the 1963 Peter Sellers comedy after British police found a diamond ring worth $757,000 hidden in a jar of face cream in 2003, echoing a scene in the movie. "With robberies that are always high profile and high risk, the Pink Panthers are renowned for their coolness, disguises, speed, and getaways," the Times reports. It's believed the gang consists of nearly 200 people, directed by a senior group of 30 men, some of them veterans of the 1990s Balkans military conflict.
Discreet Travel Via Forged Passports, Bribes
The gang reportedly take advantage of EU free movement rules to cross borders undetected. They've been known to use forged passports or bribe customs officers to secure safe passage. "They have a home base in the Balkans where they have family. People don't talk, they don't want to suffer the revenge of the Pink Panthers," said Brand. "It is one of the reasons why it takes so long to pin them down, to find out who they are."
"Big Step" In Investigation Hailed
But a task force of 20 officers is closing in on the group, which includes an Albanian and a Montenegrin believed to be in hiding, the Times reported. Dutch police say they've made a "big step in the investigation." "All the information together now means that the investigation focuses on a specific group of suspects from the Balkans," the authorities said in a statement.