AFP - Police have smashed a gang which used fake bomb vests in the kidnapping of 21 businessmen in France and Luxembourg to raise over three million euros in ransom, Spanish police, which took part in the operation, said Sunday.
Eight suspects, including the ring's suspected leader who had escaped from a French jail last year, were detained in Spain and another eight were arrested in France, Spanish police said in a statement.
The group used a high-class prostitute to lure six businessman to a Paris hotel from Morocco in November 2012 with the promise of a profitable deal involving information technology products.
The businessmen were then held captive in the hotel until they handed over around one million euros ($1.3 million) in cash to the ring.
Shortly after the suspected leader of the group, who is of Algerian origin, posed as the head of security of an Arab prince and organised a meeting with 15 jewellers and watchmakers at a Luxembourg store by claiming his boss wanted to make a huge purchase.
Members of the gang then held the businessmen at ransom at gunpoint and made off with 1.3 million euros in jewels and watches and another one million euros in cash.
"To prevent the businessmen from escaping, the kidnappers used fake bomb vests which they said were loaded with explosives which would go off if they left the premises," the Spanish police statement said.
After the two kidnappings, the suspected leader of the group, who escaped from a prison in Avignon in southeastern France in October 2012, moved to Malaga on Spain's southern Costa del Sol.
He was arrested after police stopped him during a routine road check and saw that he was wearing one of the high-end watches that was stolen in Luxembourg.
Police seized 127,000 euros in cash as well as five luxury watches, six guns, three swords, three motorcycles, two cars and two bullet-proof vests in various home searches carried out as part of the investigation carried out by police in Spain, France and Luxembourg.