Police raided various properties on Tuesday. | Miquel À. Cañellas


The National Police estimate that the pickpockets arrested this week in Palma had an annual "turnover" of some 1.6 million euros. Over recent years, they are reckoned to have stolen around 12.6 million euros.

The police's "Operation Bucharest" resulted in the detention of 34 people and in the seizure of more than 300 stolen items, eight high-end vehicles, a large number of bank dataphones and credit card cloning devices. The gang is considered to be the largest network of pickpockets in Europe and the United States.

On Monday, the day before the police operation, one of the gang's leaders attempted to flee the country and was arrested at the airport. The gang's members stole wallets, backpacks, credit cards and mobile phones in various parts of Palma - Playa de Palma, the historic centre, Bellever Castle, and at bus stops for the main lines to the airport and Playa de Palma - as well as in Puerto Alcudia, Puerto Soller, Cala Ratjada and Valldemossa.

They didn't use violence or intimidation, but operated by distracting their targets. They often disguised themselves as tourists, monitoring cars, the arrival of ferries and visits to monuments. Daily takings between were some 10,000 euros. Several members of the gang were receiving unemployment and social assistance benefits.