Passengers using Lisbon airport warned to secure luggage as 30 handlers cited for “hundreds of baggage thefts”

Passengers using Lisbon airport are being warned to secure their luggage after a major police operation identified 30 workers suspected of “hundreds of thefts from suitcases” and other baggage.

According to reports, 160 PSP agents raided 900 staff lockers last week, as well as the residences of a number of airport handlers.

Correio da Manhã claims five were caught “red handed” in the possession of guns and drugs, while another 25 were cited as ‘arguidos’ (official suspects) for thefts.

Of the group almost all are employed by airport personnel agency Groundforce.

Only two do not work at the airport, explains CM – suggesting their involvement was in logistics.

CM claims the workers collaborated in small groups with “defined functions”.

“One stayed on watch, while the others opened the luggage. The crimes were committed in the hold of the aircraft.”

Most sought-after were “small high-value objects”, like tablets, watches, glasses, jewellery or even clothes that could be sold online, via services like OLX (a website that runs a bit like Ebay).

When the teams left planes they had ostensibly loaded with passenger luggage, they hid stolen booty in their lockers “making use of the dead angles in the airport’s CCTV system”, said the paper, adding that one member of the team had “two machines for smelting” that were used to “transform stolen gold”.

Cellphones and other filched electronic equipment were “never switched on”, so as to avoid detection, and then dismantled and “sold for parts”.

Operation Porão Limpo (Clean Hull) is believed to have apprehended “hundreds of stolen objects” – “including watches valued at more than €100,000 euros” – as well as “€23,000 in cash and two firearms”.

According to CM, Groundforce collaborated with the police raid, and will continue to do so.

But, in the meantime, passengers are being advised to secure their luggage with padlocks, or other devices, and not to leave any precious items in exterior pockets.

CM adds that the arrested men have all since been released on the condition that they remain within the area of their residence. It is not clear, however, whether they have returned to their jobs.