Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Pink Panthers, Serbia, Spain, France, Brazil & Now Hollywood !!

Serbian Criminals Hit Headlines Across Globe

As Leonardo Dicaprio reportedly prepares to shoot a film on the infamous Pink Panther gang, real-life Serbian criminals have hit headlines across the globe this week.

While the government reiterated on Monday that the fight against organised crime is a top priority, Serbian criminals allegedly dealing in international crime have been nabbed on two occasions in Spain over the past week.

The latest incident took place this weekend in Madrid, where Spanish police smashed a Serbian gang of 29 men suspected of robbery and fraud in Spain, Portugal and France.

According to police, the criminal group was divided into four groups: one in southern Spain, one in the Basque region, northern Spain and southern France, one in the eastern Spanish city of Castellon, and one in Portugal.

In a separate incident last Thursday, three Serbians and three Montenegrins were arrested in Spain on suspicion that they attempted to smuggle 77 kilograms of cocaine. The drugs were transported from Argentina aboard a ship, and were intercepted in the port of Tarragona.

Meanwhile, the country's Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic stressed on Monday at a meeting of the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative in Brussels, where Serbia took over the chairmanship of the initiative, that the fight against organised crime will remain Serbia's priority. He also noted the need for regional cooperation for the issue to be resolved.

Montenegrin and Serbian criminals have hit headlines before for large-scale crime, in particular for cocaine smuggling from South America to Western Europe.

On top of the list is Darko Saric, the alleged leader of an organised criminal group which is suspected of smuggling over 2.1 tons of high quality cocaine from South America to Europe. Saric, who is of Montenegrin origin but holds Serbian citizenship,is currently at large and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.

The Serbian prosecutor filed charges against Darko Saric and his associates in April 2010.

Zoran Nikolic, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Criminological and Sociological Research, said that these criminals are high profile criminals but "still cannot be compared on the basis of international influence and abilities with the Pink Panthers."

The Pink Panther gang became infamous after a jewel heist in London's upscale Mayfair district in 1993 valued at around half a million euros. British police called the gang "The Pink Panthers" in reference to a series of 1960s movies starring Peter Sellers.

It is estimated that the group's robberies in cities all over the world over the last 10 years netted them some €250 million. Interpol headquarters in Lyon formed a special project to deal with the gang, and while some have been arrested and convicted, others remain at large.

According to Serbian daily Blic, a screenwriter visited Belgrade last week to meet with Interpol officials and a Radio Belgrade host about the Dicaprio Pink Panthers film.BELGRADE - Criminals from Serbia were leading Balkan groups which organized supply and transport of cocaine from South America to Europe. Names of some leading criminals are yet to be revealed.

Among the 19 million inhabitants of Sao Paulo, Brazil, live Serbian gangsters

‘Supply and transport of cocaine were secured by various groups from Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria. Albanian criminals from the southern Serbian province and Albania were also included by securing the net of street dealers in Europe.

The job included heroin dealers from Turkey exchanging heroin for cocaine. It is believed that Darko Saric’s group was involved in such exchange. In Europe there were three chief points for cocaine trade – in Spain, Italy and Holland’, ‘Blic’ source informed about the investigation says.

All supplies of cocaine were carried out via Goran Nesic-Ciga, arrested in Brazil. Darko Saric’s gang as well as the ones of Dejan Stojanovic Keka (also arrested in Brazil), Zeljko Maksimovic-Maka and his close associate Slobodan Kostovski (found in Brazil several months ago), Mileta Miljanovic (arrested in Italy recently) and Luka Bojovic (presently hiding somewhere in South America) were also involved.

Finding all those criminals began by action of Serbian police called ‘Niva’ in cooperation with the Special prosecution in 2008. Together with it there was another action going on ‘The Balkan Worrier’ which included American DEA. This action led to confiscation of cocaine supplies organized by Darko Saric’s criminal group.

In February of 2010 In Goran Nesic’s stocks police confiscated 550 kilos of cocaine hidden in fruit cans.
Serbian Minister of Justice Snezana Malovic said she would request extradition of Goran Nesic and Dejan Stojanovic Keka.

Rockets fired on Nebojsa Joksovic’s building

Three rockets from a hand launcher, as ‘Blic’ learns exclusively, were fired on Thursday morning at a building housing printing works of Nebojsa Joksovic, a witness-collaborator in trial against Darko Saric’s organized criminal group. Explosion which caused panic in a part of Belgrade called Zarkovo at 01.02 was preceded by messages from a mobile telephone number in Montenegro which contained serious death threats to another witness-collaborator in trial against Saric, Mile Jankovic, a businessman from Vojvodina.

‘There is no doubt that Darko Saric is behind rocket attack and death threats. Since this is a very serious situation police are intensively investigating the case and identity of the people who fired rockets. The attack was well planned and carried out at night at a moment when there were no people in the street. Only after the attack residents of the neighboring buildings went out. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Material damage is not significant either but the message is clear as it is clear who it came from’, ‘Blic’ source from Serbian Home Ministry says.
Although there are no eyewitnesses there are certain operational data which gave direction to the investigation.

Witness-collaborator at secret location

Nebojsa Joksovic was one of the leading members of a criminal group of Darko Saric, a drug-dealer from Montenegro. He was arrested on January 27 last year in police action called ‘The Balkan Warrior’. In July he was transferred from prison onto a secret location after having reached agreement with the Prosecution over getting a status of witness-collaborator. In January he testified in the Special Court in Belgrade without presence of the public. He then said that part of the money earned from drug dealing ended in Stanko Subotic’s pocket. He also admitted to have participated in dealing of cocaine in Italy and that orders were given to him by Darko Saric direct.

Associate of drug lord Saric arrested in Podgorica

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Police announced on Thursday (May 12th) the arrest one of the closest associates of fugitive drug lord Darko Saric. Jovica Loncar was detained in Podgorica on suspicion of laundering Saric’s money obtained from cocaine trafficking. Saric and his group already face charges in Serbia of smuggling 2.5 tonnes of cocaine from South America. In March, prosecutors filed fresh charges against them for money laundering and investing the drug money in Serbia’s privatisation process.

DiCaprio as chief of Serbian Pink Panther gang in a movie hit

Belgrade - Leonardo DiCaprio, a famous Hollywood actor and producer is preparing a film on worldwide known Serbian gang of robbers called the ‘Pink Panther’. As ‘Blic’ learns exclusively the screenplay writer of DiCaprio’s film was in Serbia last week where he talked with members of Serbian Interpol Office and Dragan Ilic, host of ‘Waking Up’ program at Radio Belgrade.

‘This is a very serious story but everything is still a secret and I am not allowed to reveal any details. It is true that the film is in plan’, Ilic says for ‘Blic. He did not want to reveal why he was contacted about the ‘Pink Panther’.

‘There are several ideas. I do not know what shall happen in the end but there is huge interest worldwide about the ‘Pink Panther’ gang’, Ilic says.

At Interpol Office in Belgrade we failed to collect some more information about talks with the screenplay writer of DiCaprio’s film.

‘The talk lasted several hours. We talked about everything important for writing of the scenario, characters, key events and similar’, we were told at the Interpol.
The Serbian ‘Pink Panther’ gang that robbed jewelry worth hundreds of millions of EUR is frequent topic of many newspapers, magazines and TV programs in recent years. Articles about the gang appeared in Japan, America, United Arab Emirates and all European countries.

‘Panthers’ were also presented in several documentary programs the authors of which talked to representatives of Interpol, police of the Great Britain, France, Spain, etc. They all were trying to reveal who the people organizing robberies of diamonds, expensive jewelry, watches, etc., were.

The ‘Pink Panther’ came in the focus of media attention in May of 2004 when the gang robbed a famous jewelry shop in an elite part of Tokyo. The value of stolen diamonds was EUR 32 millions. New robberies followed in Switzerland, Germany, Lichtenstein, Monaco and Dubai. The one in Dubai lasted 20 seconds only. The value of the stolen jewelry was USD 11 millions.

The chief members of the gang are the Serbs and Montenegrins. According to police files more than 200 members of the gang have been identified until so far.

Art Hostage Comments:

David Samuels wrote the definitive article about the Pink Panthers in the New Yorker which has become the reference point for The Pink Panthers and all related Balkan Criminal activity.

Well worth the read:

A Reporter at Large

The Pink Panthers

A tale of diamonds, thieves, and the Balkans.

by David Samuels April 12, 2010

ABSTRACT: A REPORTER AT LARGE about a gang of jewel thieves known as the Pink Panthers. On May 20, 2003, two thieves walked into the jewelry store Graff, in London, and, in less than three minutes, made off with more than thirty million dollars’ worth of diamonds.

It was the biggest jewel heist in British history. One of the thieves, who was raised in Montenegro, was reputed to be one of the leaders of a spectacularly inventive, and elusive, gang of jewel thieves called the Pink Panthers.

The London robbery was followed by other Pink Panther heists, in Europe and Asia; the take from these robberies approached a quarter of a billion dollars. In frustration, detectives in London, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, and Tokyo, working through Interpol and Europol, began pooling information about the Panthers.

Over the past year, the writer spoke with seventeen detectives, in ten countries, who are tracking the Panthers. Belgian detective André Notredame believes that the core of the Panther operation consists of between twenty and thirty experienced thieves. Dozens of other facilitators in various European cities provide logistical assistance.

Since 2002, Notredame says, the Panthers had robbed a hundred and fifty-two jewelry stores. Describes a robbery committed in Dubai. Mentions Dusko Poznan, a thief who was hit by a car in Monaco and then arrested at the hospital. In the fall of 2007, Interpol created the Pink Panther working group. Mentions André Muhlberger and Milan Ljepoja.

Geneva detective Yan Glassey believes that the Panthers originated as a gang from Cetinje, Montenegro, but grew into a wider Balkan collective. Mentions Dragan Mikic. Criminal gangs became dominant forces in Serbia during the Balkan conflicts of the nineties, and they were further empowered by Western sanctions which gave them a stranglehold on the markets for gasoline, cigarettes, and other staples.

Describes how Slobodan Milosevic helped turn Serbia into a criminal state. Mentions the novel “Gorilla” (1974), which was inspired by the life of Serbian thug Stefan Markovic. Six years ago, two Serbs, Djordje Rasovic and Aleksandar Radulovic, stole the Comtesse de Vendôme necklace from a Tokyo boutique.

According to Milutin Dacovic, a retired criminal, the higher ranks of the Panther organization include a number of Serbian ex-soldiers, but the diamond trafficking was directed mainly by criminals from Italy, Russia, Israel, and Holland.

In Montenegro, banditry may be even more deeply entrenched than it is in Serbia. Mentions Milo Djukanovic and Ratko Knezevic.

The writer met with a Panther who called himself Novak. Novak said there were four main Panther groups, originating from a single group of diamond thieves from Montenegro. After a robbery, the jewels were handed off to a member of the team, who then drove to a rendezvous near a highway.

The diamonds would be inspected by the buyer. Novak suggested that many of the jewels were recut in Antwerp and then shipped to Israel, where they reëntered the legitimate diamond market as “new” stones.

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