Sep 28, 2011
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Japan jails Montenegrin 'Pink Panther' jewel thief

Sep 28, 2011

TOKYO, Sept 28, 2011 (AFP) - A Japanese judge on Wednesday jailed a Montenegrin member of the "Pink Panther" gang of international jewellery thieves for 10 years over a $3.7 million gem heist.

Photo: Reuters

Rifat Hadziahmetovic, once described as Japan's most wanted man by police, was sentenced for his part in the raid on a Tokyo store that netted jewels worth 284 million yen, a Tokyo District Court spokesman told AFP.

In the heist in Tokyo's upmarket Ginza district in June 2007, Hadziahmetovic and another "Pink Panther" member sprayed tear gas at store clerks, stole the jewellery and fled on bicycles, prosecutors said during the trial.

Hadziahmetovic's jailing is the latest blow against the Pink Panthers, a once seemingly untouchable band of thieves drawn from paramilitary circles in the former Yugoslavia.

The gang was given its name after British detectives found a diamond ring hidden in a jar of face cream, echoing an incident in Peter Sellers' 1963 comedy "The Pink Panther".

The smash-and-grab crime group is known to have stolen jewellery worth hundreds of millions of dollars in nearly 30 countries over the past decade, including 3.5 billion yen worth of gems from another Ginza shop in 2004.

Hadziahmetovic, in his early 40s, was arrested in Cyprus in 2009 on a European warrant over the theft of luxury watches worth 600,000 euros ($800,000) in Spain, to where he was transferred.

Japan then sought his extradition.

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