KUALA LUMPUR - Two international jewel thieves, who stole two diamond rings worth RM1.4mil ($550,000) in Bukit Bintang earlier this month, have been nabbed in Zürich, Switzerland.
European jewellery and watch business crime prevention network International Jeweller Security manager Martin Winckel said the two were recognised while on the prowl in Bahnhofstrasse and were arrested while attempting to steal jewels at a store there on Thursday.
The men, believed to be Taiwanese, visited three stores in the street, expressing interest to view three to five carat diamond rings. They were recognised by a jeweller at their second stop and were detained at the third store after police were called.
Winckel said the mastermind of the duo, known only as Meng, was identified through fingerprints taken from a previous arrest in 2012. The identity of his accomplice is undisclosed.
"They were surprised!" said a gleeful Winckel.
"Now the police of several countries like Malaysia, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Great Britain and Bahrain have to work together so it will become an Interpol job," he said, adding that Meng, 46, has only one international arrest warrant in Bahrain.
There were no sign of the diamond and jade ring the duo allegedly stole from two stores in the Kuala Lumpur Golden Triangle area on Aug 14.
When asked how Meng and his accomplice could sneak out of the country after their images and details had been circulated to authorities at Malaysia's major exit points, Winckel said both men were revealed to have been using multiple passports with different aliases.
"They are professionals," he said.
A source in Bukit Aman said local police are aware of the arrests in Zurich but said they were stillliaising with Interpol.
Interpol issued a purple notice (the lowest of eight international alerts) on the two men, to inform authorities of their modus operandi on Aug 20.
The suspects will dress as businessmen and enter stores under the pretext of buying rings. They will express interest in a particular ring and ask to see it. The men will claim they need more money to buy it and will pass the ring and box back to the staff.
One of the men will then ask for directions to the nearest ATM, prompting the staff to set down the box on the glass counter and step out with the man to show the way. While the staff is preoccupied, the other suspect will swipe the ring.
They have been linked to two heists in London and Antwerp last year, stealing RM697,601 worth of jewellery and have attempted five other thefts, using the same modus operandi in London and Hamburg between September 2013 and July 2014.
Meng has been involved in 14 other cases in central Europe since 2012 and his most lucrative being a US$1.5mil (RM4.73mil) heist in Bahrain in 2013.