They have struck in the Algarve, in the north and in the centre of Portugal – and many of them are still at large.
We’re talking about a South America house-breaking gang that has been orchestrating surgical strikes on VIP properties, making off with millions in jewellery, watches, cash and valuables.
Recent ‘victims’ include Portugal’s wealthy industrialist António Rodrigues (click here), a well-known diet guru in Maia and even football legend Luís Figo in Madrid (click here).
The good news, reports Correio da Manhã this week, is that police have caught a number of group members, apprehending their booty.
In the space of just two weeks, three cells have been foiled: in Almancil, Cascais and Porto, writes ionline.
A total of 13 suspects have been detained while over €100,000 worth of gold has been recovered, as well as stolen luxury cars.
Ionline describes the gang as Chilean, but CM suggests members include people from Argentina and Peru as well.
According to police in the Algarve, five gang members were arrested on Tuesday after a burglary in the Almancil area.
GNR police “recovered more than 100 articles of high value”, wrote Sulinformação news website, “including items of jewellery (75), watches (45), three top-of-the-range cars and two handguns, as well as €2.500 in cash and currency from other countries”.
Also apprehended was “electronic equipment, a small quantity of cannabis, glasses, rucksacks and suitcases”.
Loulé police chief Major Paulo Santos said that although the men were armed, they did not resist arrest.
Three were caught ‘red-handed’, said Sulinformação, while two others were rounded up in the men’s place of residence, where more stolen items were recovered, as well as packages, destined for Italy and Chile – thought to contain even more stolen goods.
As police await authorisation to open packages that have since been found to be in transit, CM connects the dots of what seems likely to be a trail of raids going back months.
The men, most of whom were travelling on perfectly legal papers, appear to have entered Europe via Barcelona, and then divided up into multiple ‘cells’.
CM and ionline talk about as many as 60 operatives placed in houses all over Spain and Portugal.
In Sintra, for example, four Chileans were caught last week after a shootout with police in the sleepy village of Colares.
The men were all connected to a number of recent house raids in the area, but were apparently released pending future court hearings.
Meantime, in Cascais, nine Chileans (seven men and two women) have been taken into custody suspected of having carried out a wave of burglaries.
Europol has been ‘helping’ authorities in establishing the many connections between various cells, as it was aware that the South Americans were operating in Europe, adds CM.