‘Pink Panther’ fugitive in Tokyo jail for Ginza heist

Kyodo News

A Montenegrin member of the “Pink Panther” ring of thieves is now in custody in Tokyo in connection with a 2007 robbery at a Ginza jewelry shop, after being extradited from Spain, sources at the Metropolitan Police Department said.

Rifat Hadziahmetovic, 42, suspected of stealing a diamond tiara worth ¥200 million and other jewelry from the shop on June 14, 2007, has told the police he wishes to exercise his right to remain silent and not incriminate himself, according to the MPD.

The suspect arrived at Narita airport in the early afternoon, surrounded by about 10 police investigators who led him to a police vehicle. He was then taken to a police station in Tokyo.

Spain earlier agreed to hand him over to Japan and the two sides have been arranging for the extradition this month.

The Tokyo police sent investigators to Spain, where the suspect was handed over to them at an airport in Madrid. They then served an arrest warrant on Hadziahmetovic on Friday at a police station inside the airport.

Hadziahmetovic told the Japanese investigators then that he did not want to go to Japan and that he wanted to return to Montenegro, according to the police.

It is extremely rare for Japan to have a crime suspect extradited from a country with which it has not concluded an extradition treaty.

Japanese police normally serve a crime suspect held overseas with an arrest warrant on a Japan-bound plane after it has entered international airspace or after the plane has landed in Japan.

Spain had been holding him for his alleged involvement in a separate robbery, the police said, adding he was arrested in Cyprus in March 2009 for possessing a forged Bulgarian passport. Cyprus later extradited him to Spain.

Hadziahmetovic and his alleged accomplice, Radovan Jelusic, also a Montenegrin, are suspected of stealing the tiara and a necklace worth ¥84 million from the Exelco Diamond store after spraying tear gas at clerks.

A senior MPD official said the handover may have been realized because of a growing global movement to tackle the Pink Panthers, suggesting this helped Japan’s negotiations with the Spanish government go smoothly.