Suspected 'Pink Panthers' jewel theft gang member arrested in Spain

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Story highlights

  • Borko Ilincic, a 33-year-old Serbian man, has been arrested in a Madrid suburb
  • Police say he took part in a bold robbery of a jewelry store in Dubai in 2007
  • Spanish police say Ilincic is a suspected member of the Pink Panthers gang
  • The gang's behind jewelry store robberies in Europe, the Mideast, Asia and the U.S., Interpol says

Years on the run as a suspected member of the feared "Pink Panthers" gang of international jewel thieves have ended for a Serbian man who's been arrested in a Madrid suburb, Spanish police said Wednesday.

Police say Borko Ilincic, 33, took part in a bold robbery of a jewelry store in Dubai in 2007, when thieves drove two cars inside a shopping mall by the store.

Spanish police said that robbery netted 3 million euros ($4 million) in jewels, but the international police agency Interpol says "the gang made away with jewelry worth an estimated 11 million ($15 million)."

Spanish police say Ilincic is a suspected member of the Pink Panthers gang. Interpol, which had him on its wanted list, says the Pink Panthers are "behind armed robberies targeting high-end jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States."

Police in Britain named the gang the "Pink Panthers" after the famed movie in which a thief steals the so-called Pink Panther jewel and hides it in a face cream jar to elude detection. In London, a diamond ring stolen in a May 2003 store robbery was hidden in a jar of face cream, and the gang's nickname was born, an Interpol spokeswoman said by phone from the group's headquarters in France.

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2013: 'Pink Panther' breaks out of prison
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Ilincic is facing a life sentence in the United Arab Emirates for the 2007 jewel heist. Spanish police have been on the trail of Pink Panther suspects, and they zeroed in on Ilincic in the town of Alcala de Henares near Madrid.

He was arrested Tuesday while driving a rented car after leaving a hotel, police said.

Interpol says the Pink Panthers are a "loosely-aligned network of criminals believed to have carried out robberies in excess of 300 million euros ($448 million) since 1999. Hundreds of suspects are linked to more than 340 robberies in 35 countries."

"The Pink Panthers' methods are daring and quick. ... Many gang members are known to originate from the former Yugoslavia, but they work across countries and continents," Interpol says on its website.

Spanish police released video of the 2007 robbery at the Dubai shopping mall that showed a frightened store employee hiding behind a door while a hooded man, in another room, smashed glass windows to steal jewels. Afterward, the thieves ran to their cars parked inside the shopping mall and sped away. The police footage also shows scenes of the arrest this week in Madrid.

A Spanish police spokesman said Madrid officers don't know if the hooded man in the robbery video is Ilincic.