TALLINN - In a further display of the benefits low-cost airlines bring to making getting from one place to another easier, members of a gang used the convenience of the cheap flights to jet around Europe to commit ruthless multi-million pound raids. The members were drawn into the robberies by an organized crime group in Estonia, who would use the men for the jobs to repay debts, reports the Daily Mail.
The gang would be ushered onto flights before committing the robberies on day trips to their destinations. They would fly back to Estonia the next day while the stolen merchandise would be shipped separately.
But the operation was foiled by West Yorkshire Police after they targeted Berry’s Jewelers, in Leeds, four times between 2005 and 2007.
The Estonian raider nabbed is Algo Toomits, 31; he was jailed on July 25 for ten years at Leeds Crown Court for his part in the operation.
Five other members have already been jailed for a total of 55 years. Police found the ring was linked to at least 150 armed robberies across the UK and Europe, Leeds, Manchester, the West Midlands, London, Cheshire and Northumbria while they also carried out raids in Germany, Sweden, Italy and Finland.
Detectives from swanky Monaco even flew to Britain to question a member of the gang over a 75,000 euro raid on a Monte Carlo jeweler. Police believe millions of pounds worth of watches were stolen but none have ever been recovered.
Toomits had been recruited because he needed money to fund his addiction to amphetamine, as “he was injecting speed.”
Recruited raider Toomits took part in two armed raids on jewelery stores, each time getting away with designer watches, including Rolexes, totaling almost 650,000 pounds.
In one raid he had tricked his way into Berry’s after posing as a customer to get through the door. Once inside, staff quaked in terror as Toomits held them at gunpoint while the rest of his gang smashed glass display units.
Mehran Nassiri, prosecuting the case, told the court the gang helped themselves to watches including ones made by Rolex and Patek Phillipe worth 374,000 pounds in the raid in February 2007.
But Toomits was foiled by the police when the distinctive jacket and shoes he was wearing in the CCTV were recovered during a search of his home in Estonia.
Nassiri said in October 2006 that Toomits was involved in a similar chilling raid at jewelers in Blackpool. A smartly dressed man wearing a flat cap was allowed to enter through the electronic security and he produced a handgun, shouting to staff to get down on the floor, pointing the gun directly at them.
Two more men, one of them Toomits, then entered and smashed up the display counters with hammers, stealing watches worth 250,000 pounds, but one of the hammers was left behind and Toomits’ DNA was found on it.
Nassiri said police interviewed Toomits in 2007, but by then he was in jail in Estonia for narcotics offenses. He was extradited to the UK this May after completing his sentence.
Toomits admitted to two charges of robbery and two of having imitation firearms. He has joined five other members of the gang in prison - Reigo Janes and Joonas Jarvsoo, who were given 12 years, Sarik Sander, who was sentenced to 11 years, and Ivo Paern and Kristo Koiduste, who were given ten-year terms.
He said that Estonia’s joining the EU, coupled with cheap flights, encouraged robbers to carry out raids and disappear back to the country’s captial, Tallinn, where they had been planned.
They already had contacts in the UK who would usually reconnaissance the premises.
DNA recovered didn’t match up to the UK database, so British police asked international countries to put them through their systems. Estonian police then began to get hits.
Another member is due to be dealt with next month. Estonian police are also investigating the organized crime group.