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15 May 2009 - Media release

“Pink Panthers” arrests highlight role of close police cooperation against gang’s criminal activities

LYON, France – The arrests in Paris earlier this week of two suspected key members of the Pink Panthers, an international gang of jewel thieves, demonstrates the benefits of police closely cooperating against transnational crime, a top INTERPOL official has said.

With INTERPOL having set up an international Pink Panthers cell in July 2007 to coordinate the worldwide campaign across its 187-strong membership against the group, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, said that the latest arrests demonstrated the importance of sharing vital police data in the face of transnational crime.

“The arrests are a clear example of the results which can be achieved through law enforcement around the world cooperating and sharing essential information for police on the ground to follow up on,” said Mr Louboutin.

“INTERPOL therefore congratulates the Swiss and French authorities whose collaborative efforts led to the arrests of these two dangerous individuals.”

Close cooperation between Swiss and French police in the wake of a jewelry raid last week in Lausanne, Switzerland, led to the arrest of Nicolai Ivanovic, aged 36, and Zoran Kostic, aged 38, both of whom are suspected of being key members of the gang accused of carrying out a 100-million-Euro series of jewel robberies over the past 10 years.

With investigators seeking in particular to draw on the latest elements following Monday’s operation in Paris by the anti-organized crime squad – the Brigade de répression du banditisme – to shed light on a series of armed smash-and-grab raids in Europe, Asia and the Gulf States, INTERPOL is planning to hold in the coming days an operational meeting of police investigators from a number of countries in order to pool information arising from the arrests.

High-profile arrests of alleged Pink Panthers gang members in recent years include two alleged gang members – a Serb and a Bosnian – arrested in Monaco last year on suspicion of preparing a robbery. Another three Serb nationals were convicted in France in September and sentenced to between six and 15 years in jail.

Police in Cyprus in March also arrested a man from Montenegro believed to belong to the gang of jewel thieves. Rifat Hadziahmetovic was arrested as he tried to leave Larnaca airport, because he was travelling on a forged Bulgarian passport. It was on the basis of active information sent by INTERPOL to the authorities in Cyprus that an identity check by Cypriot police revealed that the man they were holding was in fact Hadziahmetovic, a suspected key member of the Pink Panthers and the subject of two INTERPOL Red Notices – meaning that he was on the Organization's international wanted persons list.