Europe

'Pink Panther' Tokyo heist suspect extradited to Japan

  • 14 August 2010
  • From the section Europe
Suspect Rifat Hadziahmetovic (centre) is escorted by Japanese authorities upon his arrival for trial at Narita international airport, east of Tokyo
Image caption Rifat Hadziahmetovic is escorted out by local officials upon his arrival in Tokyo

An alleged member of a gang of international jewel thieves known as the Pink Panther gang has been extradited to Japan from Spain over a 2007 robbery in Tokyo, reports say.

Rifat Hadziahmetovic, 42, from Montenegro, is suspected of involvement in the theft of a tiara and other jewels from a jewellery shop in Tokyo.

He was being held in Spain in connection with other charges.

The gang is said to have up to 200 members, many from former Yugoslavia.

Mr Hadziahmetovic is accused, along with another alleged Pink Panther member, of stealing a diamond tiara worth 200m yen (£1.5m; $2.3m) and other jewels from a store in Tokyo's upmarket Ginza district.

The Pink Panther gang has been blamed for raids on some 120 luxury shops in more than 20 countries - as far afield as the US, Japan, Switzerland and the UAE - over the past few years.

Interpol has been co-ordinating the work of several police forces to try to catch the gang's members.

Police say the Pink Panthers have a less formal structure than most gangs, but can be ruthless, with links to murders and drug trafficking.

They are known for the creativity of their heists, using bicycles to escape through the heavy Tokyo traffic in the 2007 robbery, and a speedboat for a robbery in southern France.

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