This is the Romanian criminal mastermind behind one of Britain’s biggest jewellery heist gangs.

An ITV Tonight investigation reveals that Adrian ‘The Dad’ Botez, inspired by the notorious jewel thieves The Pink Panthers, ran a gang of ‘ninja-like’ jewel raiders, who robbed £3.1m worth of goods from 11 high-end stores across England in a year-long spree.

The broadcast travelled to Romania to find out more about the thieves, who trained at the so-called Crime Academy, an illegal European-wide ‘school’ with more than 100 members.

This highly organised, physically fit, military-style criminal gang did not come together by accident. They were in fact graduates of a huge crime academy based in Romania which trained young men to become top jewellery thieves.”

ITV Tonight Reporter Aasmah Mir

Tonight has obtained exclusive access to the entire catalogue of CCTV footage, which detectives used to form part of their investigation across nine borders and which took the combined efforts of eight police forces to crack.

Each break-in, most of which happened inside shopping centres, took the criminal gang less than 90 seconds.

Staffordshire Police took charge of the nationwide investigation.

Credit: Staffordshire Police

So the first step was to force entry into the shopping centre, and the only way in was to smash the glass front doors. They then crawled into the glass, setting a fire behind them as they went in, to prevent people following in after them. [They] attacked the premises by forcing the shutters and then went on to smash the glass cabinets inside the store.”

Detective Inspector Phillip Bryan

Detective Chief Inspector Ricardo Fields led the operation ‘Commission’ for Staffordshire Police.

They employed a number of strategies including cycling to the scenes of their crimes and cordoning off sections of road to reduce traffic and observers. They also pitched tents, typically two to three miles from the scene of the crime and buried their waste in a bid to avoid DNA being gathered.”

Detective Chief Inspector Ricardo Fields

The West Midlands Organised Crime unit has access to intelligence on foreign criminal gangs across the globe.

It became quite clear that there was a significant Romanian element, and there were quite a few leads that were able to be pursued. If you put it all together and look at who’s orchestrating it, it is a network of organised criminals who are basically just running amok and committing crime across the country.”

Detective Constable Louise Parker, Foreign Nationals’ Offenders Desk

The group was linked to the crime academy in Romania as several members came from the same region of the country and employed similar strategies.

The leader of the academy in Romania and this ‘British franchise’ was Adrian Botez.

ITV Tonight went to Piatra Neamt, the city in eastern Romania where Botez came from. From there, new academy recruits were blindfolded and usually hidden in the boots of cars and taken to the capital, Bucharest.

Credit: ITV / Tonight

Inside safe houses, they were given a Rule Book and contract, swearing on their lives not to break the illegal academy’s code of honour.

The Romanian Crime Academy recruits men and provides a strict code for its members as well as training in numerous techniques, such as avoiding being followed as well as understanding forensic evidence.”

DCI Ricky Fields

ITV Tonight obtained a copy of the secret handbook - its advice contained a warning: "Top secret jobs like these come with occupational hazards like shootings or jail."

An extract from the Crime Academy handbook Credit: DIICOT

"You have to prepare yourselves mentally and physically - learn how to attack and defend yourselves with weapons and knives."

The TV current affairs programme tracked down Botez, and found he was serving a jail sentence of more than 10 years for attempted murder.

Tonight asked Adrian ‘The Dad’ Botez for an interview in a prison near Bucharest, but he declined.

Aasmah Mir said Adrian Botez "was driven by the success of the international jewel thieves, the Pink Panthers, so he decided to assemble his own gang of professional thieves."

Special serious crime prosecutors in Romania, DIICOT, have told us there are 100 more of his footsoldiers or graduates still out there.

By studying on the internet the jobs the Pink Panthers had done, was the way they thought they could become even more successful. When the Pink Panthers were travelling by car for example, they didn’t use registration plates so they couldn’t be identified. So The Academy chose to take this a step further by using push bikes instead of cars so they wouldn’t be traceable and lead back to them.”

DIICOT prosecutor
Meticulous planning was a feature of the raids Credit: Staffordshire Police

In March this year seven Romanian men, aged between 19 and 26 were sentenced to more than 50 years in jail, for their part in the UK heists.

They have now been deported back to Romania. Very little of the academy’s haul has ever been recovered and is thought to be buried across Europe.

The Jewel Raiders: Tonight is on ITV at 7.30pm

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