‘Pink Panther’ to face trial in Montenegro over 2007 Ginza heist

AFP-JIJI

A Montenegrin member of the “Pink Panther” gang of international thieves has been sent home to stand trial in the $3.6 million robbery of a Tokyo jewelry shop in 2007, Japanese police said Sunday.

In the June 2007 heist in the swanky Ginza district, Radovan Jelusic and another Montenegrin man sprayed tear gas at three saleswomen in the jewelry store and stole a tiara, necklaces and other jewels worth a total of ¥284 million.

Jelusic, 41, who is wanted by Interpol in connection with the crime, was arrested in Italy in 2010 over a separate robbery and transferred to Montenegro on Friday, a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman said.

“The suspect is scheduled to face trial in Montenegro as Japan has asked the Montenegrin authorities to punish him on its behalf,” the official said, confirming press reports.

Jelusic has been charged by the metro police with robbery causing injury.

His accomplice, Rifat Hadziahmetovic, was arrested in Cyprus in 2009 in connection with a heist in Spain, where he was transferred to.

He was then extradited to Japan in 2010 to be tried for the Tokyo robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison last September. He is appealing the ruling.

The two Montenegrins have been described by metro police as members of 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 jewelry worth hundreds of millions of dollars in nearly 30 countries over the past decade, including ¥3.5 billion worth of gems from another Ginza shop in 2004.