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Spain arrests 14 airport workers over theft from luggage

By Agence France-Presse Published Dec 16, 2023 10:01 am

Spanish police said they have arrested 14 workers at the main airport on the holiday island of Tenerife on suspicion of stealing watches, laptops, and other valuables from checked-in luggage.

Officers seized items worth nearly two million euros (P122 million) which they suspect were stolen by employees of Tenerife South airport, including 29 luxury watches, 22 high-end smartphones and 120 pieces of jewellery, as part of their operation, police said in a statement.

Police believe the 14 arrested suspects sold many other stolen items either to local stores or online.

Another 20 employees of the airport are under investigation as well as 27 jewellery shops in Tenerife, one of the seven islands which make up Spain's Canary Islands.

Police said they began their investigation after getting a rise in complaints from passengers about thefts from their checked bags.

The authorities believe the thefts happened as baggage were placed in the hold of aircraft, with the suspects forcing open the suitcases and removing valuables when they were out of sight of passengers and other employees.

"They hide the stolen items in pockets they sewed on their clothes or their own personal lockers," the police statement said.

The suspects face charges of membership in a criminal group, robbery by force and money laundering.

Tenerife South airport handled 10.8 million passengers last year, making it Spain's seventh busiest airport, according to state-controlled airport operator Aena.

Tenerife, the largest and most populous of the Canary Islands, has another airport in the north. The island is popular with northern European sunseekers. (AFP)