Caceres, Spain, Jul 20 (EFE).- The two suspects detained at the Croatian border in relation to a brazen wine heist at a Spanish restaurant last year had allegedly trained their criminal capabilities while working in the capital Madrid, police said Wednesday.
The alleged thieves, a man, 48, and a woman, 29, were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of stealing 45 bottles of wine worth nearly 1.65 million euros from the renowned two Michelin-star Atrio Restaurant Hotel in the historic city of Caceres, southwest Spain, on October 27, 2021.
Both have a criminal record for similar robberies in Madrid’s upmarket Salamanca neighborhood, Spanish police said in a press conference Wednesday.
The pair were also reported to have been at another famed restaurant in the capital just days before the Atrio heist.
There is no trace of the looted property.
The duo allegedly made off with 45 bottles, including 38 Romanée Conti, which Atrio sold for an average price of 12,000 euros, and a Montrachet Grand Cru 1999 Magnum valued at 25,500 euros.
The missing item that hurt Atrio’s owners Toño Pérez and José Polo most, however, was a 1806 vintage bottle of Chateau d’Yquem, valued at 310,000 euros.
“The couple had made this their lifestyle,” the head of the local judicial police in Caceres, Carlos Soria, told the press conference, where he was joined by regional political and police officials.
An investigation is underway to determine where the costly bottles of wine ended up.
The suspects were detained by Croatian border security as they traveled from Montenegro in an operation coordinated with Spanish police and Interpol.
The owners of Atrio still hope to retrieve the stolen wine, although the pair reached a settlement with their insurance company in March.
According to police accounts, the robbery at Atrio was meticulously planned and executed.
The suspects used false identification during their stay on the night of the theft but had previously stayed at the hotel on three occasions in the preceding months of July, August and September.
On October 27, the couple dined at the restaurant and were invited to visit the wine cellars, a habitual offer for guests.
After briefly returning to their room, the male suspect made his way back down to the cellar while the woman distracted the receptionist by asking the employee to arrange food, despite the kitchen being closed.
The male suspect then entered the restaurant area with a stolen masterkey and left with three backpacks stuffed with 1,648,500 euros-worth of wine.
To protect the bottles, he stuffed the bags with towels taken from the hotel room.
The robbery went unnoticed until the following morning, by which time the unwelcome guests had already left. EFE