The Italian Carabinieri (Arma dei Carabinieri), supported by the Munich Police Department, the Criminal Investigation Directorate of the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police (Inspectoratul General al Poliţiei Române) and the Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) and coordinated by Europol, arrested ten individuals suspected of committing robberies across Europe with stolen vehicles. In total 261 vehicles have been physically seized so far and those remaining, –up to 1 669 – are under a judicial seizure decision.
Hug and mug
The investigation began in April 2017 when the Italian authorities detected a criminal group involved in the robbery of jewels and luxury watches. The criminals preyed on elderly and vulnerable individuals. The gang approached their victims in the stolen vehicles, when one of the suspects, usually a woman, would get out the car and talk to the potential victim. The criminal would then hug the victim and snatch their jewellery.
Some members of the criminal network had no fixed residence and were transient throughout Europe. In total, police officers investigated 42 members of this ring of which ten were arrested.
Europol supported operation Abbraccio by cross-checking information and organising an operational meeting when the Italian authorities escalated their investigation to be carried out Europe-wide. The information exchange, coordinated by Europol, between Italy and the authorities from Germany, Romania and Spain was key for the Italian Carabinieri to achieve the results of this case.