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Suspected jewel thief arrested

POLICE in Cyprus have arrested a man from Montenegro believed to belong to a gang of international jewel thieves dubbed "the Pink Panthers" that is suspected of carrying out high-profile thefts around the globe, the international police organization Interpol said yesterday.

Rifat Hadziahmetovic of Montenegro was arrested on March 18 while traveling on a forged Bulgarian passport as he tried to enter Larnaca airport in Cyprus, Cypriot police said.

The Pink Panthers are believed to be mainly from countries in the Balkans.

They are the prime suspects in a series of brazen jewel thefts worth over US$150 million over the past decade in Europe, Asia and the Persian Gulf.

Hadziahmetovic was arrested on charges of alleged involvement in a 2008 robbery on the Spanish island of Tenerife, Interpol said in a statement from its headquarters in Lyon, France.

Hadziahmetovic appeared in a Cypriot court yesterday, Cypriot police spokesman Christos Andreou said.

His detention in jail was extended until Tuesday, when he will appear in court for the start of extradition proceedings to Spain.

"This arrest is yet again an example of the results which can be achieved by law enforcement around the world sharing information through Interpol which can then be followed up by police on the ground," said Interpol's executive director of police services, Jean-Michel Louboutin, in a statement.

Louboutin commended the work of Cypriot police and said Hadziahmetovic had been identified from his fingerprints.

His original detention was for traveling on fake documents. A follow up from Cypriot police with Interpol led to the formal arrest for robbery.


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