Mass arrests of highway bandits
The group dedicated to robbing cars and possessions from unsuspecting drivers at the AP-7 highway has been disbanded by the Catalan police. 13 stolen cars have been recovered and more than 90 people responsible for these crimes arrested.
Barcelona (ACN)- The Catalan police have dismantled an alleged organised crime organisation which specialises in committing robberies on Catalan highways, in particular the AP-7, which link the French border with Girona, Barcelona, Tarragona, and carries on towards València. Many of their victims were tourists. As part of 'Operation Road' the Catalan Police\u2019s Central Crime Unit has charged 10 of these modern day highway-men who are all believed to be part of an organised criminal cell. All of the accused are repeat offenders of Peruvian nationality between twenty and fifty years old and residents of Barcelona, Cornellà and Hospitalet de Llobregat. Two specific criminal cells have been targeted and in a mass investigation of over 90 people in which 13 stolen cars were recovered. It is estimated that the stolen possessions are worth over 600,000 euros.
According to the police the detainees are part of two well-formed criminal cells, acting individually but operating within a wider criminal network. They organised the theft of possessions and cars along Catalan highways, in particular the AP-7. The arrested ten men with some 140 prior offences between them and recovery of cars, cash and personal possessions is a great success for the police who have been combating this type of crime for the last years with other operations.
The strategy of the thieves was always the same. Using a stolen vehicle with a powerful engine and a fake number plate, teams of two or more men would cruise the highways in search of potential victims. A high majority of their prey was foreign tourists, easily visible due to the foreign driving plate and typically carrying more valuable items with them. This also added to the appeal of the AP-7 highway, which is the main road connecting Catalonia and Spain\u2019s Mediterranean coast to France. It is a popular route for travellers.
Once a car had been selected, the criminals would indicate to the driver to pull over, often by suggesting that something was wrong with the car or throwing a stone against the back of the vehicle to cause a commotion. Once the car stopped, one member of the band would distract the passenger and driver, engaging them outside of the vehicle whilst the other member would steal possessions from the car, or at times the car itself. Before the victim realised what was happening, both bandits would run back to the get-away vehicle and speed off. If the victim did realise what was happening, police say, the thieves were not deterred and resorted to physical violence to carry out their theft before fleeing the scene.
As a result of the investigation, a large quantity of personal items has been recovered including mobile phones, jewellery, sunglasses and cash. Police are currently in the process of documenting this money, which is a now a formidable collection of currency from around the world.
In total 10 people have been arrested, who according to the police have a combined total of 140 offences on their criminal records. Antonio Fernando S for example has 21, Jorge Andrés A has 31 and Manuel K has 37. Nine of the detainees have already been convicted and sent to prison. All those arrested are residents of Greater Barcelona, in concrete from the municipalities of Barcelona, Cornellà and L\u2019Hospitalet de Llobregat.
At this time the investigation remains open. The Central Unit for Repeat Offenders has not ruled out further arrests pending the processing of evidence.