Police have arrested eight people suspected of belonging to a criminal group that stole millions at different locations across Europe including a purple diamond worth as much as 15 million Euros.
The Spanish National Police announced the news about the eight arrests, which took place in France according to a statement released by the authorities.
The detentions were a culmination of an investigation which started in January 2020 when the alleged members of the criminal group stole a diamond at a luxury shop by carrying out a ‘Rip Deal’.
A Rip Deal is a conning technique where thieves pose as wealthy buyers to gain their victim’s trust before stealing their money or luxury item.
The suspects allegedly robbed the purple diamond valued between EUR 7 and 15 million in Barcelona in January of last year.
The statement said the local police Mossos d’Esquadra initially had three suspects. One woman, who was believed to be the plan’s mastermind, posed as a diamond expert while a man posed as an interested buyer.
The authorities found a third suspect through fingerprints on an empty box which the thieves left behind in Barcelona. The prints belonged to a man who was in a relationship with the fake expert.
The police believe the thieves replaced the original box containing the diamond with the fake one in a moment when the victim was distracted.
The fingerprints led the authorities to the suspects in the French city of Besancon near the Swiss border.
The Spanish authorities then issued a European Investigation Order (EIO) asking the French police for their help in continuing the investigation in June 2020.
The EIO allowed police to obtain phone taps which revealed the suspects formed part of a larger organisation that carried out several forms of scams across Europe.
Spanish, French and Swiss police were in communication with the European justice authority EUROJUST which helped trace the suspects to other robberies.
They found the group stole CHF 200,000 in notes from a car collector in the Swiss city of Zurich on 31st July 2020.
They did another Rip Deal scam of a 101-carrot diamond valued at EUR 4.5 million in the French municipality of Cannes on 7th August 2020.
The group also went to the Spanish city of Valencia on 15th October 2020. They allegedly hoped to carry out another heist but the would-be victim did not appear.
Investigators found the group made several attempts to sell the stolen items but were unable to, according to the statement.
Officers from the French Judicial Police sprang into action and arrested eight people suspected of belonging to the crime group when they became suspicious the group was moving to sell one of the stolen diamonds.
They found a pink suitcase like one that was used in the Cannes robbery along with envelopes containing fake banknotes which are commonly used in Rip Deal scams.
The statement said: “Besides the eight arrests and the three home raids, this joint police operation has allowed for the seizure of EUR 10,000 in cash, two jewellery certificates, documents of a purchase of a home in Romania, a magnifying glass used for jewellery and a USB key which gives access and allows to do transactions with a cryptocurrency wallet.”
The group is believed to be highly trained and skilled at carrying out the scams and searched for new victims almost daily.
It is unclear when or where the suspects are expected to stand trial.