Croatia arrests 4 suspected thieves in Venice jewel heist

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) Croatian police have arrested four suspects in the brazen theft last January of precious Indian jewels from the famed Al Thani Collection that were on display in a Venetian palace.

Four men, all Croatians ranging in age from 43 to 60, were arrested Wednesday after a months-long joint investigation with Italian police, Croatian police said Thursday in a statement.

The force did not reveal whether the jewels had been recovered and Italian police had no immediate comment on the heist.

The Croatian statement said one of the arrested suspects is believed to be linked to several major heists in Europe and the notorious, multinational "Pink Panther" gang of thieves. He is also sought by Switzerland over a 2011 jewelry heist, police said.

Croatian police also said fifth member of the gang, a 54-year-old Serbian citizen sought on a European warrant, was arrested Thursday on the border crossing with Serbia. It was not clear if he was linked to the Venice heist.

The thieves made off with a brooch and a pair of earrings worth an estimated $3 million by mixing with the crowd on the final day of the exhibition at Venice's Doge's Palace, one of the city's top tourist destinations on the edge of St. Mark's Square.

The stolen jewels were not the top highlights of the Al Thani Collection, which includes gems dating from the time of the Mughal Empire.

The collection includes 270 pieces of Indian and Indian-inspired jewelry and precious stones, spanning 400 years from the Mughal period to the present. It was assembled by Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, and Forbes magazine says "there is no comparable collection on the planet."

Before Venice, the "Treasures of the Mughals and the Maharajas" had also been displayed at Paris' Grand Palais, London's Victoria and Albert Museum, New York's Metropolitan museum and at the Miho Museum near Kyoto, Japan.

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