Eight Estonians arrested for international jewel heists

PARIS, June 11, 2009 (AFP) -Eight Estonians suspected of pulling off jewel heists in Paris, Belgium and Austria worth a total 1.8 million euros (2.5 million dollars) have been arrested in Tallinn, French police said Thursday 11 June.


Cartier International 2009

Working with Interpol, police managed to track down the suspects, aged 20 to 36, using DNA samples, mobile phone records and video footage from surveillance cameras in shops in Paris, Brussels and Austria.

French police were in the Estonian capital on Thursday 11 June to question the men, three of whom were already in jail, under agreements providing for cooperation between European police forces, said a police official.

The first heist dates back to May 2007 when 44 Cartier watches worth 550,000 euros were stolen from a shop in Paris and the thieves appear to have become bolder over time.

In March 2008, they stole 80 watches from an Ashindo boutique in a Paris tourist area and two months later made off with 100 watches from the Royal Quartz shop in the centre of the French capital.

The Sagil jewellery on Paris' fashionable Rue de Rivoli was hit in December, with 70 watches stolen worth 400,000 euros.

The Estonians are suspected of stealing 1.6 million euros worth of jewellery from a Brussels shop in November last year and another heist in Austria landed them with one million euros worth of loot.

The thieves worked in groups of two or four, with some holding customers and salesclerks at gunpoint while others raided the display cases, according to police.

For the Paris heists, they escaped on foot, riding the metro to a cheap hotel in the suburbs before taking a bus back to Estonia or to some other European country.

Arrested on Tuesday 9 June, all eight men were wanted for arrest under European warrants.

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