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Pink Panther Lives

from the LA Times

Balkans’ Pink Panther jewel thieves smash their way into myth

Members of the unglamorous gang, which has hit boutiques in Paris, London and Dubai, are heroes to some in their war-ravaged native Serbia. ‘I hope you rob the U.S. Federal Reserve,’ one fan writes.

By Jeffrey Fleishman

Reporting from Belgrade, Serbia — So let’s get this straight. A guy in the raspberry business from western Serbia smashes and grabs his way through a heist eight time zones away in Tokyo and scoots off past shopping centers and sushi bars with a $31-million necklace known as the Countess of Vendome.

It happens.

Djordjije Rasovic graced arrest warrants, a thief with brazen nerves, part of an international Balkan crime gang known as the Pink Panthers. He and one of his accomplices, Snowy, another name too whimsical for the harsh impulses of the former Yugoslavia, brought a bit of high jinks to a land haunted by war criminals and atrocities.

They come in rough, swinging hammers and axes, shattering glass, flashing semiautomatic pistols and an occasional grenade, and vanishing with gems in satchels lined with toilet paper to prevent scratching.

They’re untailored and uncoiffed, preferring black leather jackets and ball caps to cashmere and cuff links, a kind of “Ocean’s 11” minus the panache. But they’re disciplined and fluent in many languages, and they strike with precision.

“They’ve become more than pure criminals, they’re heroes,” said Dragan Ilic, a morning radio talk show host in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. “They’re violent but they haven’t killed anyone. It’s as if they’re saying, ‘We can beat the technologically superior West with our raw power and intelligence.’ They’re feeding the Western myth of the dark, tribal Balkans — these criminals coming from those wars and woods.”

[ click to read full article at latimes.com ]

Posted on July 30, 2009 by Editor

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