Two members of the gang arriving at court. | Alejandro Sepúlveda


Among items found during a police search of a room in an Arenal hostel on June 14 were 150 euros, a bank card and a document in Romanian listing market days in Mallorca. Three of the seventeen pickpockets arrested last week and subsequently expelled from Mallorca were sharing this room.

One of them, Ion, is 52. He has been arrested a total of 44 times for theft, robbery with violence, criminal association and fraud. Of the seventeen who were detained on Tuesday - twelve men and five women - only five didn't have previous convictions. In perfect Spanish, one told the National Police that he has been lifting bags for more than twenty years. "I don't know how to do anything else." Another said: "I have to work, I have to eat something."

The gang members, all Romanian, began arriving in Mallorca in March. From that time on, there was an increase in thefts in the centre of Palma. The pickpockets were in teams of two or three; a third person was used as the driver of a hire car to take the others to and rapidly from tourist centres.

Their main targets were elderly tourists, who typically carry more cash and stay for short periods of time. Many do not file reports. If they do, they do not usually go to court because of the inconvenience.

The police checked the seventeen on the social security database. There was nothing. None had been employed in Spain. Instead, they acted and looked like tourists in Mallorca, as they had over the winter in the Canaries, where there are records of arrests.

A Palma court banished them from Mallorca. So where are they now?