Guardia Civil detained two men and two women last week, non-Spanish foreign nationals, at Los Rodeos-airport in north Tenerife, under suspicion of allegedly belonging to a criminal gang and having perpetrated two thefts, committed using the method known as “affectionate embrace” (“Abrazo cariñoso“) while in the Gran Canaria municipality of Mogán. In parallel to these arrests, Guardia civil proceeded to detain a fifth alleged member of the group at Gran Canaria airport, who was ready to fly to Madrid with stolen jewellry and watches valued at about €21,000. All the detainees have numerous previous police records for crimes regarding other people’s property and tend to move frequently between provinces to make their detection and detention difficult.
The investigation began on March 31, when Guardia Civil in Puerto Rico-Mogán were informed of a robbery, perpetrated by two young women who approached the victim in an over friendly manner after which the victim subsequently realised that he had had his gold diamond-encrusted wrist watch removed from his wrist, with an estimated value of €6,000.
Agents in charge of prevention and citizen security identified two women, on 01 April, who matched the physical characteristics described in the report; engaging the tourist, of advanced years, in conversation at a very short distance, acting overly affectionately.
A few days later, another similar event occurred, in this case another foreign tourist reported, in a denuncia to the Puerto Rico Guardia Civil, that their gold and diamond watch, valued at €15,000. In this case also allegedly perpetrated by two women of the same characteristics and who were also fully identified by the victim, presumably having been shown images of the suspected pair by investigating officers.
The suspected perpetrators are known to move frequently between the provinces, in fact agents investigating in Puerto Rico found that they had been on Gran Canaria for just four days, having come from Palma de Mallorca where they are also known to the authorities and wanted for incidents identical to those described, which occurred two days earlier.
In a very short space of time they disappear and move to other provinces and communities, in many cases far away, in order to make their detention difficult.
The ‘modus operandi‘ of these criminal groups is to locate potential victims, mainly in tourist areas, where there are many visitors, who are then approached by two women who are well practiced in the physical removal of objects, having previously selected their victims according to age and observed objects of value, always looking for an approach or feigning gratitude, the women embrace or try to kiss their victims, hence this type of robbery is known to the Spanish as an “Abrazo cariñoso” affectionate embrace.
At the moment of contact they take advantage of their proximity, snatching necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, or any other valuable item that is visible, while two men remain in the background, possible in a vehicle, without being seen by the victims, so as to transfer and support the assailants and facilitate quick concealment and removal of the stolen items.
As a result of the investigation, and discreet follow-up carried out by Puerto Rico Guardia, these four alleged criminals (two men and two women) were detained at Los Rodeos airport, as they travelled very early on April 5 via an inter-island flight to Tenerife.
That same morning, a fifth suspected member of the group was intercepted at Gran Canaria Airport as he was about to embark on a flight to Madrid, carrying among his belongings three diamond-studded watches, several chains, bracelets and gold pendants, some of them having been altered to avoid recognition by potential victims. In this case two of the watches serial numbers coincide with those reported as stolen and will be delivered back to their rightful owners.
The detainees have been placed at the disposal of the corresponding judicial authorities in the town of San Cristóbal de la Laguna and the town of Telde.