Home News Spanish Airport Workers nicked 2 million euros worth of goods from passenger’s suitcases

Spanish Airport Workers nicked 2 million euros worth of goods from passenger’s suitcases

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As part of Operation Oretel, the Guardia Civil has arrested 14 Spanish Airport workers and initiated investigations into 20 others—all employed at Tenerife’s Sur-Reina Sofía airport. They are suspected of various crimes, including participation in a criminal group, forceful robbery, damages, and money laundering.

The operation was initiated in response to a surge in reports from travellers about thefts from their checked suitcases. The suspects, all airport employees, exploited their positions by manipulating the handling of luggage in the plane’s holds. They intentionally slowed down loading and unloading processes, creating a greater distance between suitcases. Subsequently, within the holds and away from public view, they opened suitcases by puncturing the zippers to pilfer items such as jewellery, cell phones, watches, and electronic devices.

To conceal their actions, the perpetrators strategically positioned the suitcases, using them as a barrier between the warehouse access door and its interior. They even went as far as setting up security curtains—rigid tarps—intended to prevent luggage from moving freely.

This criminal group operated with a structured hierarchy, each member assigned specific roles in the commission of the crime, from selecting flights to selling stolen goods through various channels. The stolen items, worth nearly €2 million, were concealed using clothing with manually crafted interior seams and personal lockers.

The Guardia Civil executed searches at the suspects’ lockers, private vehicles, and residences, resulting in the confiscation of 29 high-end watches, 120 pieces of jewellery, 22 premium mobile phones, electronic devices, €13,000 in cash, and a luxury vehicle.

The recovered stolen goods have an estimated value of €1,953,571. Some items were sold through physical and online second-hand stores, leading to investigations into 27 jewellery stores in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

The investigation, led by the Fiscal Investigation and Border Analysis Unit (UDAIFF) of Tenerife South Airport, received support from the Citizen Security Unit (USECIC). The Guardia Civil collaborated with the State Aviation Safety Agency (AESA), Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (AENA), and various airlines operating at Reina Sofía Airport.

The operation was directed by the Court of Instruction No. 4 of Granadilla de Abona.

Who are these luggage thieves?

The back of house area of an airport is a very secure area for obvious reasons. As incredible as it seems, that means that these luggage thieves would have to be employees of the airport. Often they work in teams for greater effectiveness.

Going just by who has been caught and arrested for luggage theft, it is usually either a person handling luggage (baggage handler) or a member of the TSA security screening team that gets caught for stealing from luggage.

In other cases, the thefts are carried out by other passengers stealing from carry-on baggage on-board the airplane or people walking in off the street and then walking out with luggage right off the luggage carousel.

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