‘Pink Panther’ jewel thief escapes Swiss prison

Switzerland Prison Break

GENEVA (AP) — A member of the notorious “Pink Panther” jewel thief gang has escaped from a Swiss prison after accomplices rammed a gate and fired at guards, police said Friday.

Milan Poparic, 34, fled with fellow inmate Adrian Albrecht, 52, from the Orbe prison in the western canton (state) of Vaud late Thursday, according to a police statement.

Poparic, a Bosnian national, had been serving a sentence of six years and eight months for robbing a jewelry store in the Swiss city of Neuchatel in 2009. Albrecht was serving a seven-year prison for various crimes including robbery, arson and money laundering.

Police said Poparic was affiliated to the Pink Panthers network, prime suspects in a series of spectacular thefts. According to Interpol the group has targeted luxury watch and jewelry stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States, netting over 330 million euros ($436 million) since 1999.

Interpol has dubbed them the “Pink Panther” gang, recalling the 1963 movie starring Peter Sellers as the bungling Inspector Clouseau, but it isn’t known whether members themselves use that name. The gang is believed to have a core membership of about 40 people, many of them from the Balkans.

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