Thieves from Chile flown into UK to commit burglaries

A gang of Chilean thieves are believed to have been flown into the country by an organised criminal network before committing a spate of burglaries in which property worth more than £1 million was stolen.

The South Americans are thought to be behind hundreds of break-ins.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police discovered they would often commit offences within a week of flying into the UK.

High-value items including designer clothes, handbags, jewellery and watches were stolen. Some attempts were made to transport the stolen property out of the country.

In the past eight months 36 people, all believed to be Chilean nationals, have been arrested, Scotland Yard said. Sixteen have been convicted of burglary-related offences, and of the remaining 20, eight have been deported. Twelve left the country after being released under investigation.

The investigation, known as Operation Genie, started following a spate of burglaries in the south-west London and Surrey areas in 2017.

Typically the burglars targeted unoccupied homes in rural areas, often near parks or golf courses.

They gained access to the first floor of the property using furniture found in the garden such as tables, chairs and ladders.

This method of entry ensured that alarm systems, which only covered the ground floor, were not triggered.

A number of people were arrested in London, as well as Hertfordshire, Surrey and Sussex, during the first four months of 2018.

Detective Inspector Tim Court said: "As a result of this investigation, a large group of criminals, who were responsible for hundreds of burglaries in the London area in the past couple of years, have been imprisoned or deported.

"These offences were carried out in an organised way and the offenders appear to have come to London with the intention of carrying out burglaries."