TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Turkish police intercepted a Colombian man suspected of forming part of an 11-member international gang which made off with NT$200 million (US$6.6 million) from a jewelry fair in Taiwan, reports said Wednesday.
On Monday night, as the 2017 Taiwan Jewellery and Gem Fair in Taipei was closing down, a group now believed to have numbered 11 members stole a bag containing a sapphire brooch, three loose diamonds and three jade rings.
Initially, the suspects were believed to hail from South Asia or the Middle East, but police announced Wednesday most of the group came from Colombia and Mexico. At least five had been confirmed as having left Taiwan the same day as the theft, the Central News Agency reported.
However, a Colombian man who flew to Dubai and then took a connecting flight to Turkey was stopped upon his arrival in Istanbul, unconfirmed Taiwanese media reports said. The man had not been in possession of any stolen property, according to the media.
The four others, three men and a woman, had flown to Hong Kong, but it was not immediately known where they went after that. The identities and whereabouts of the remaining six, four men and two women, were not clear.
The police could not confirm Wednesday whether the stolen valuables were still inside Taiwan or had been taken overseas.
About 200 police officers were viewing camera footage and visiting hotels in order to track down the culprits, while Interpol was cooperating to try and collar those who already left Taiwan, CNA reported.
Members of the same group had visited an earlier edition of the same Taiwan fair three years ago, but had not stolen anything at that time, reports said.
On Monday, several members of the group had talked to police and to the woman who had put the valuables in a bag in her car in order to divert their attention while an accomplice reached into the vehicle and made off with the jewelry, reports said. The bag was later found empty in plants nearby.