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6 Former Military Men Arrested in Spain for Luxury Home Thefts

Spanish police arrested six men with military backgrounds who are accused of robbing luxury goods from homes and businesses throughout the southern province of Málaga. Police also recovered a number of jewelry, watches, cash, and weapons.

The group allegedly orchestrated 71 thefts, mostly in the coastal city of Marbella. Police said that they used military training, including counter-surveillance, to initially evade detection and access the properties. Other areas where the thefts occurred included Estepona, the city of Málaga, and Torremolinos.

“The alleged ringleader is believed to have taken part in all the robberies, always carrying a firearm,” the BBC reported. This leader is said to be from Albania and has been described by law enforcement as an expert in counter-surveillance and boarding ships. The man faces charges of robbery by force, memberships of a criminal organization, and money laundering.

The other men are also of Eastern European descent. However, the police have not yet released additional details about the men, including their nationalities.

Four of the group’s members were imprisoned before the trial, without the option for bail, and the court proceedings around these men will progress under an order of secrecy, according to Spanish newspaper Sur.  

“According to local authorities, including the region’s provincial commissioner, the commissioner of Marbella and the chief inspector of the robbery group of the Judicial Police of Malage, the group conducted exhaustive research on each target before launching their attack,” according to The Olive Press, an expat Spanish newspaper covering local news and issues. The group would then wait to initiate the thefts between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., so that residents were more likely to be out of the house for dinner. The thefts were estimated to take usually between seven to 10 minutes once the thieves were inside the property.

In at least four of the robberies, there were reports of physical violence.

Marbella police began investigating the robberies in March 2023, calling it “Operation Western.” Other agencies involved in the investigation included counterparts in Málaga’s police headquarters and specialist National Police units, Sur reported.

Law enforcement officials said the arrests were assisted by support from a local businessman.

Among the recovered items, there were 169 jewelry items, luxury handbags, and other items with designer brands. Police also seized a pistol that was used in all the robberies along with other weapons, transmitting equipment, drills, computer gear, approximately €8,700 ($9,427) in cash, and more.

This group is not the first to target luxury residences and businesses in the Costa del Sol region.

In September 2023, the French authorities, with support from Europol, arrested a group suspected of committing a dozen thefts from luxury hotel and apartment buildings in both Spain and France. The group was based in Marbella.

And earlier this month, Spain’s National Police arrested four Colombian men who allegedly robbed jewelry stores in Albacete, Alicante, Jaen, Madrid, Málaga, and Valladolid. The group used the proceeds from the thefts to finance their other illicit activity—trafficking cocaine.