The 'Pink Panther' Gang Is Breaking Its Members Out of Prison

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Members of an international network of jewel thieves with a flair for the dramatic staged an assault on a Swiss prison to liberate two members being held inside that was straight from the opening scene of an action movie. 

Milan Poparic, a 34-year-old Bosnian and member of the gang, was broken out of a Swiss prison with a fellow inmate after receiving help from two other Pink Panther members. Poparic was serving a six year and eight month sentence for robbing a Swiss jewelry store in 2009. The gang members on the outside drove two vans into the prison's barbed-wire fence system while inmates were in the yard exercising. While suppressing the guards with AK-47 fire, they set up ladders for Poparic and his inmate friend to hop the fence and get in one of the vans. The other van was set on fire to distract the guards while the culprits made their escape.

Intense, right? 

Interpol aren't very big fans of the Pink Panther gang. The Pink Panthers have allegedly stolen around $396 million worth of jewels in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America since 1999. They got their name after some jewels were found submerged in face cream, the same tactic used by the thieves in the classic comedy movie. You may recognize the name, not from the movies, but from the New Yorker's long 2010 profile of the group. They've developed a reputation for their theatrics. And the group seems to be making a habit of daring break-ins to rescue fellow members from prison. In May, a group of Pink Panthers helped two fellow gang members escape from a Bois-Mermet prison in another dramatic escape. 

Beatrice Metraux, the prison chief in the Swiss province where the incident took place, argued that this wasn't your typical jail break. "This is an invasion, rather than an escape, orchestrated by a heavily armed organized gang," she told reporters. To make matters worse: police said they have no idea what direction the jewel thieves went. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.