Giant operation arrests gang of 15

FIFTEEN MEN, aged between 17 and 35, have been arrested following a huge police operation, co-ordinated by the criminal investigation department of Setúbal GNR.

The gang is suspected of carrying out hundreds of robberies at large electrical goods stores all over Portugal.

A total of 120 officers from stations in Setúbal, Montijo, Grândola and Santiago do Cacém brought to a conclusion an investigation that has lasted 11 months. Eighteen warrants for house raids were issued, ending in the detention of 15 suspects.

The gang consisted of individuals who already have long criminal records and the robberies they are believed to have undertaken began in February 2005, targetting large stores selling electrical goods including Staples Office Centre, Rádio Popular and Worten. The gang appeared to be particularly interested in stealing laptop computers, plasma screens and televisions. In the majority of cases, the stolen goods were sold on in less than 24 hours.

The gang were also experts at stealing cars, always using two vehicles for each robbery. Goods trucks were used to break open doors while high-powered cars, almost always stolen from car showrooms and dealer concessions, were used to escape the police. The gang is also suspected of being involved in the theft of 10 Mercedes cars, which were stolen last summer from Mercauto in Sete Rios, Lisbon, and Abrunheira, Sintra.

So far, the GNR have recovered eight vehicles used in the robberies, as well as 10,000 euros, some drugs and a large quantity of stolen goods. Setúbal police believe that, in October alone, as many as 50 robberies took place at the hands of the gang in different parts of the country. The detainees are now due to appear at Setúbal Court.