Cannes and Monaco jewelers on full robbery alert for Pink Pandas

May 15, 2015

French police are warning Cannes and Monaco jewelers that a gang of jewel thieves may strike during the upcoming 68th annual Cannes Film Festival

The group, named The Pink Pandas by Scotland Yard, is made up of smartly dressed Chinese men who pretend they are wealthy tourists.

The gang’s modus operandi is that two or three of them stroll into a jewelery store and ask to be shown items which are on display in the window. They then select one, telling the shop assistant that they wish to offer it as a present and want it gift wrapped.

After handing over a deposit of a few hundred dollars for the piece, they say they’ll return the next day to pay the balance -- the shop assistant doesn’t notice that they’ve deftly swapped the chosen item for a look-alike fake, and only when the Chinese “shoppers” don’t return for their purchases does the theft become apparent.

That ruse of course involves some time and planning to execute, since the jewelry to be stolen must first be chosen from among those on public display, and then a fake replacement made of colored glass and metal shipped from China.

This week in Paris, three of the Panda jewel thieves who had stolen a diamond ring worth $520,000 in a Monaco jewelery store last year were each sentenced to five years in prison.

Having been filmed by the store’s security cameras, customs police recognised the robbers and thus arrested the trio this February when they were boarding a plane for China at Paris’s Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport.

However, taking these three individuals out of circulation does not mean that the jewelry store robberies will stop because, according to “Europol” (European Union police), the Pink Pandas gang has about 50 members.

Their elaborate jewel heists began in 2012 with a robbery in Paris of a diamond ring worth $250,000, but  has now been carried out successfully all over Europe, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East.

The robbers are always unarmed.

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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