A burglary ring which stretched across Europe from Spain to Croatia has been busted, Munich police told a press conference on Monday.
“We believe that this group could have been responsible for every fifth burglary in Germany during the period of this investigation,” said Reinhold Bergmann, commissioner of the organized burglary unit.
Investigations started in Lehel, Bavaria in January 2016 when two plainclothes police officers were monitoring three girls who broke through the front door of a house. A police spokesperson said that the girls were “fast, skilled, and had all the correct tools for the job”.
The officers arrested the girls, but at the time didn't realize what they had stumbled upon. This set of arrests was the beginning of an investigation that would take them across Europe.
Although the three girls provided false papers, they were quickly identified on the police databases. It was then discovered that they belonged to a large family that was responsible for many break-ins across Europe.
Police discovered that the huge clan was interwoven by a series of marriages and family connections.
“The families would 'share' young female burglars amongst each other,” said Bergmann.
Further investigation led to arrests in Gelsenkirchen, Münster, Villingen-Schwennigen, Hanover and Frankfurt.
In July 2016, the police investigation took detectives to Bilbao in northern Spain where, with the help of colleagues at Europol and Eurojust, they arrested other members of the clan.
During the press conference, police told of the hierarchy in the “highly-efficient” gang.
At the top were the leaders, who controlled the assets of the group abroad, then came the people who ran the safe-houses in Germany. Under them was the group that provided support like transport to the burglars, then at the very bottom were the burglars themselves, who were mostly female.
When police discovered that all of the stolen money was flowing to Croatia, five members of the commission travelled to Croatia at the beginning of May.
They raided the villas of the gang leaders and were able to secure stolen goods worth €100,000. Two ringleaders were also arrested with the help of the local police force.
Munich police did have some potentially good news for victims of the burglaries, saying that some might be able to retrieve rings and watches that had been stolen.