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27 March 2009 - Media release

Co-operation through INTERPOL leads to ‘Pink Panther’ suspect arrest in Cyprus

LYON, France – An identity check against INTERPOL’s databases by Cyprus police on a man arrested for attempting to travel on a forged passport revealed him to be a suspected member of the ‘Pink Panthers’ gang, a transnational crime group responsible for a series of high-value jewellery robberies worldwide.

Rifat Hadziahmetovic, from Montenegro, who is the subject of an INTERPOL Red Notice, or international wanted persons’ notice, was taken into custody at Larnaca airport when officials discovered his passport was a fake.

Checks carried out by police officers at the airport in order to determine his true identity revealed a match against information on suspected Pink Panther gang members recently circulated by INTERPOL’s Drugs and Criminal Organizations sub-directorate at the General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon to the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Nicosia.

“This arrest is yet again an example of the results which can be achieved by law enforcement around the world sharing information through INTERPOL which can then be followed up by police on the ground,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“The Cypriot law enforcement authorities should be commended for their thorough work on this arrest as well as the INTERPOL member countries involved, and staff at the General Secretariat, in ensuring that the identifying information on this suspect was available when and where it was needed.”

Fingerprint checks positively identified the man in custody as 41-year-old Hadziahmetovic who is wanted internationally for his suspected involvement in armed robberies and thefts worth millions of euros across the world, including Bahrain, Japan, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

Originally arrested in connection with the possession of the false passport, following the subsequent investigative co-ordination between Cyprus, Spain and INTERPOL Hadziahmetovic appeared before a Cypriot court today on charges relating to his suspected involvement in a robbery in Tenerife in September 2008 and will now be extradited to Spain.