The trial of a suspected member of the Pink Panther ring of jewel thieves began Wednesday at the Tokyo District Court with prosecutors seeking a 12-year jail sentence for the man for his part in a 2 billion yen jewel robbery at a Ginza store in 2007.
Rifat Hadziahmetovic, 43, a citizen of Montenegro, was extradited to Japan from Spain last year. He was arrested in Cyprus last year on a separate charge of trying to leave the island using a fake passport. He was later extradited to Spain over a 2008 robbery on the Spanish island of Tenerife. The Spanish government agreed to hand him over to Japan.
Hadziahmetovic is suspected of snatching the tiara and necklace from a Ginza store after spraying a worker with mace.
The Pink Panthers, named after the 1963 movie starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, are believed to be mainly from countries in the Balkans. The gang is believed to have more than 200 members and is characterized by swift robberies lasting less than three minutes, according to Interpol.
The gang is known for the creativity of its heists and has used bicycles to escape from a robbery in the dense traffic of Tokyo and a fast motorboat in southern France.
After one robbery in London, the gang hid a diamond ring worth $1.28 million in a pot of face cream. That earned the gang its name, since a similar tactic was used in the film "The Pink Panther."
They are the prime suspects in a series of jewel thefts worth more than $150 million over the past decade in Europe, Asia and the Persian Gulf.
Some Pink Panther members have already been caught but others are still at large. Hadziahmetovic is suspected of participating in other armed robberies in Bahrain, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.
The Pink Panther members are also suspected in a 2004 Tokyo jewelry heist.
A verdict will be handed down on Hadziahmetovic on Sept 28.© AP