A JAPANESE judge has jailed a Montenegrin member of the "pink panther" gang of international jewellery thieves over a $3.74 million gem heist.
Rifat Hadziahmetovic, once described as Japan's most wanted man by police, was sentenced to 10 years' jail for his part in the raid on a Tokyo store that netted jewels worth $3.74 million, a Tokyo District Court spokesman said today.
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 Y3.5 billion 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 $8360,000 in Spain, to where he was transferred.
Japan then sought his extradition.