In Brief

Behind the ‘Fast and Furious’ lorry gang heists

Europe-wide raids see police target criminals who committed high-speed hijacking

Thieves who climbed on to the bonnets of their moving vehicles to break into lorries in the UK and across Europe have been arrested.

Following a series of police raids, more than 100 alleged members of a gang have been detained in five EU countries for their roles in robberies conducted at speeds of up to 50mph.

The Times says the gang members, all of whom are Romanian, would manoeuvre a van or car in front of the target to slow it down, “sometimes hemming it in with another vehicle beside it”. 

Secured by a rope, one gang member would then climb out of a sunroof and use an angle grinder to cut open the rear door lock on the lorry. The cargo would then be transferred to their vehicle or thrown into the road, often without the truck driver being aware.

The proceeds could be lucrative: the gang members are accused of stealing 2,700 iPhones, worth about €5m, in a single robbery in the Netherlands. Overall, the group is believed to have committed more than 150 acts of cargo theft, worth in excess of €10m. 

Europol described the raids as “Fast and Furious-style heists”, saying that 37 alleged members were arrested in Romania in raids on 73 properties on Monday.

Among those arrested this week were members of a gang jailed in the 2014 in the UK after they were caught on the M6 in Staffordshire in a van with a roof hatch and carrying cutting tools.

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The raids in Romania were preceded by the arrest of 31 suspected accomplices in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden. 

Europol said the group numbered more than 100 people, and that arrest warrants had been issued for the suspects still at large.

The organisation said: “Executing such thefts requires a high degree of sophistication. The driver of the lorry and other road users were often completely unaware of what was going on.”

The joint investigation, codenamed “Arrow”, involved five countries and was launched in December 2016.

The 2001 movie The Fast And The Furious starred Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. It is about an undercover police officer trying to catch a group of car hijackers.

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