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Couple arrested following theft of EUR 1.6m of wine in Spain

Detectives hunting for a pair of “expert thieves” accused of stealing 45 bottles of wine worth more than EUR 1.6m from a Spanish restaurant last year have now arrested two people after a nine-month international police operation, ending in Croatia.

In October 2021, a man and a woman staying at the Atrio hotel and restaurant in Cáceres, south-west Spain, stole dozens of bottles of expensive French wine, including an 1806 Château D’Yquem, in a heist that made headlines around the world.

In a statement, Spain’s Policía Nacional said the “meticulously planned” theft began with the woman using a fake Swiss identity document to book into the hotel, and the couple dining in its restaurant before enjoying a tour of Atrio’s renowned wine cellar.

“Afterwards, they went to their room, which the man swiftly left to return to the cellar,” the police force said. “After using a previously purloined master key to gain access, he emerged with three large rucksacks – one on his back and two in each hand – which held the bottles he had stashed, and which were stuffed with hotel towels to protect the bottles.”

While the man was ransacking the cellar, the woman kept a member of staff distracted by asking for food to be prepared, even though the kitchen had already closed.

The couple left the hotel at 5.30am the next day.

“Following numerous inquiries, in both Spain and other countries, officers managed to identify the two suspects, noting the high degree of professionalism, specialisation and perfect planning that had gone into the theft,” the statement said. “They also discovered the couple had visited the restaurant three times to scout the location before they carried out the theft.”

According to police, the couple left Spain a few days after the theft and kept moving around Europe with such frequency that it was hard for the officers to keep up. They were eventually tracked down at the border between Montenegro and Croatia, and arrested in Croatia thanks to a joint police operation that included Interpol and Europol.

It subsequently came to light that the man already had two outstanding arrest warrants issued by judges in Madrid.

José Polo, co-owner and sommelier of Atrio, had even offered to buy back the stolen bottles last year, namely the 1806 Yquem. “More than the bottles of wine, they stole our dreams,” he described to the magazine Decanter, last November.

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