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03 September 2015

Japan INTERPOL Purple notice brings arrest of two international jewel thieves

TOKYO, Japan – As a result of the worldwide circulation of an INTERPOL Purple Notice, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department arrested two Chinese suspects on 20 August at Narita Airport for stealing just months earlier a diamond ring valued at USD 170,000.

Footage from a Tokyo jeweller’s security camera enabled the INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) for Japan to publish a Purple Notice illustrating to the 190 INTERPOL member countries how the suspects entered the shop in January and pocketed the diamond ring while diverting the vendor’s attention.

Based on intelligence generated by similar jewellery heists in France and triggered by the global publication of the INTERPOL Purple Notice, the NCBs in Paris and Tokyo worked together to identify the two suspects as 44-year old Huang Wende and 40-year old Zhang Liangchen, members of the renowned ‘Pink Panda’ crime group.

“Japan is committed to actively protecting its citizens from this kind of economically-damaging theft.  I strongly believe that international cooperation and use of INTERPOL´s Purple Notice system allows police forces worldwide to provide a more coordinated and effective response to this kind of organized international crime,” commented Kenta Namba, Head of INTERPOL Tokyo and Director of the Japanese National Police Agency’s International Investigative Operations Division.

“This case is a perfect example of the successes which can be achieved through international cooperation and the added value that INTERPOL brings in assisting law enforcement exchange vital policing information,” said William Labruyere, Criminal Intelligence Officer at the INTERPOL General Secretariat’s Drugs and Organized Crime Unit.  Labruyere commended the Japanese and French police for their cooperative action leading to the identification and arrest of Huang and Zhang.  

First brought to light by France’s criminal intelligence agency SIRASCO, ‘Pink Panda’ is an organized crime theft ring that has been operating worldwide for at least five years and targets high-value jewels without resorting to violence. Its modus operandi typically entails a group of smartly dressed men who visit high-value jewellery shops, ask to be shown luxury merchandise and then replace the genuine jewel with a fake replica.  It can often take weeks for the theft to become apparent.

INTERPOL Purple Notices are used to seek or provide information on modi operandi, objects, devices and concealment methods used by criminals.  They are circulated to all 190 INTERPOL member countries for information, feedback, to engage preventive action and when links are made, to generate investigative police cooperation.

Working with INTERPOL member countries and their national agencies like SIRASCO, INTERPOL has identified at least two Chinese organized criminal units carrying out similar high-end jewellery thefts.