Police in Spain bust tourist car robbers

A flat tyre

Police in north east Spain have arrested a gang of six men that specialised in robbing foreign tourists who had driven into the country by car. David Ing reports

The same group has been linked with potentially carrying out hundreds of similar crimes in Spain and other European countries in which the same tactic was used. Their modus operandi is to first puncture vehicle tyres while the owner is parked up or visiting a service area. Then, when the owner drives off, the gang follows, in some cases advising the driver of the tyre problem.

On stopping to check, the gang takes advantage of the confusion to rob cash and belongings.

The gang bust was announced by the Catalonia regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, on 27 March. Several of those arrested were said to have criminal records that showed they had been operating in various countries since 2012.

A spokesman said that the six detained were Serbs and Kosovans, aged between 35 and 50, who had been arrested two days earlier in an early morning swoop in Reus and two nearby towns in Tarragona province.

As part of the evidence they have accumulated, the police released a CCTV video showing how a typical robbery was prepared at a services area on the main coastal highway, the AP-7. The Mossos said they had been tracking the gang for five months, building up a picture of their assaults through a series of identifications and questionings.

Most of the victims had been using high-speed roads when their cars came to a halt with a flat tyre. In each case members of the gang followed them, then stopped to supposedly offer their help.

Those arrested face an initial list of 48 charges, including two of robbery that involved violence or intimidation. They have already been implicated in more than 30 separate thefts from cars, but the Mossos said the number of cases attributed to them could eventually run as high as 400. They also said more arrests could follow.