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02 December 2023

Wafi Mall Dh14.7 million heist: 'Pink Panther' in Dubai court

By Eman Al Baik

One of the accused involved in an infamous Dh14.7 million heist at Dubai's Wafi Mall in 2007, who was handed over to Dubai Police by Spanish authorities, appeared before the Dubai Criminal Court.

The gang has been named 'Pink Panther' by the Interpol after they committed series of jewellery thefts in Europe and Japan.

Graff store theft

In Dubai's Graff store robbery, the gang used two stolen Audi cars, one black and a white, by which they raced into the font gates of the mall at around 10pm, shocking shoppers.

Members of the Pink Panther gang smashed into the glass facade of Wafi mall with cars, and within seconds fled with Dh14.7 million worth of jewellery.

Dressed in black, the men covered their face with masks and rushed into the store carrying hammers and guns (which turned out to be fake), smashed glass display cabinets, and fled with the valuables in bags they were carrying.

The gang drove off to Za'abeel Road where they burnt the two cars in an attempt to wipe out all evidence.

Police investigation

Later, Dubai Police arrested two suspects NM and MM before they could flee the country. The stolen jewellery was found in a Nissan Sunny that was rented by one of the members identified as ML.

ML had entered the country using a forged passport that carried the name of NZ.

ML, however, fled the country after the crime. The rented car was found parked at about 500m away from the flat where some of the accused were staying, including AB, who appeared before the court.

AB also fled from the country on April 17, three days after the crime. He had entered the UAE on March 17 using a forged Yugoslavian passport under the name of Marin Stanic.

A couple of days after the robbery, a car renting firm informed the police about an overseas call asking them not to inform the police and that their charges would be paid.

Police arrested one of the accused MM when he approached the same rented car. Later, Dubai Police arrested NM.

In 2009, the Cassation court upheld 10 years jail sentence for NM. However, the court acquitted MM from possession of stolen jewellery charge.

During the investigation, Dubai Police in a meeting with the Interpol identified AB, 34, Serbian, whose DNA was found in the crime scene.

When shown pictures of the suspect, the watchman of the building in Al Rifaa area recognised him and his compatriot, fugitive LM, who entered the country with a forged Yugoslavian passport.

Accused in Dubai court

A year after the crime, AB, and other gang members were found responsible for similar thefts carried out in many countries including France, Switzerland, Japan, and other countries.

After serving his jail term in France, AB was handed over to Switzerland. Later, he was deported to his home country Serbia.

In February 2014, the Spanish authorities arrested AB and handed him over to Dubai Police in October 2015, testified Captain Saeed Abdullah.

First Lieutenant Ahmad Saeed who received AB from the Spanish authorities testified that the accused denied any involvement in the theft.

However, during the interrogation the accused admitted that he was in Dubai when the theft was committed.

Furthermore, he admitted that he was with friends, without specifying names, in Wafi Mall when the crime took place. He again denied any participation in the Graff store theft.

AB admitted that he committed a number of crimes outside the UAE with compatriots, without specifying the nature of those crimes.

The accused admitted that he had served a jail sentence before coming to Dubai but said he was in the UAE as a tourist.

He claimed that he did not expect a theft to be committed during the period he was in Dubai. He also did not expect that a theft be committed in Wafi Mall at the time he was in there.

Criminal Evidences show that AB's fingerprints were found in the flat that was used by some gang members.

AB's fingerprints also matched from a water bottle that was found in the rented car where the stolen jewelleries were kept.

The accused denied the charge and the court will reconvene for AB's case on July 3.

Criminal record

The gang including AB, committed robberies in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and looted three jewellery stores in Switzerland.

A year after the Wafi Mall theft in Dubai, the accused committed a theft in Monaco, using a rented car.

After committing the theft in Monaco, AB and his accomplice BD, met with a car accident in Italy. The two were rushed to a hospital where they were recognised. Both were arrested and handed over to the French authorities.

It was found that they were using forged Croatian passports.

Interpol said that the gang followed the same modus operandi partially or fully in committing their crimes. Similarities were found in using rented cars, driving into glass fronts of jewellery stores, staying in cheap hotel apartments.

It was also noted that those who keep surveillance of the crime scene do not actually participate in the crime.

The gang members use prepaid mobile cards that they get rid of in addition to the mobile set after a committing a crime.

Dubai Police's work on the case was featured in a 2013 documentary about the gang, called Smash & Grab: The Story of the Pink Panthers.