Warning for tourists visiting Spain: Mafia gangs are targeting luxury watch owners on the Costa del Sol – this is who is most at risk

TOURISTS and expats on the Costa del Sol have been warned of a rise in thieves targeting luxury watch owners. 

In Marbella there have been more than 55 known robberies so far this year, according to Marta Garcia, the chief inspector of the Policia Nacional’s so-called Rolex Team. 

Her force is dedicated solely to catching gangs who target watches, which have increased since the end of the Covid pandemic. 

Romanian mafias used to come down from Madrid and Barcelona to target wealthy visitors on the Costa del Sol during the months of March, April and October. 

However they are now operating all year round, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Garcia told Malaga Hoy. 

A recent haul of stolen watches in Marbella

A man and a woman usually drive around in a car looking for their mark, which is typically an elderly man walking on his own. 

The woman will then approach and distract him by asking for directions or even offering themselves for sex. 

They will then hug them and remove the watch from their wrist without them realising – or they will resort to aggression and more violent tactics. 

Garcia said: “They look for weak people, Romanians don’t take chances, they go easy. We have found very old victims, who were around 90 years old and who were in a wheelchair.” 

The Italian mafias, however, have a very different modus operandi, and they are out in force during the summer months.

Garcia explained: “They stay for approximately a week or a week and a half and, when they consider that they have enough loot, they return to their country.” 

Mafia members posing as a couple will typically cruise the streets looking for a target. 

Once they find a victim they signal to a thug on a motorbike who pulls up and snatches the watch, using violence if necessary, before speeding off.

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