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Couple arrested in Croatia over €1.6m wine heist

Police have arrested a couple suspected of stealing 45 bottles of fine wine worth €1.6m in a brazen heist at a Michelin-starred restaurant last year.

A man and woman carried out the ‘meticulously planned’ theft at the Atrio hotel and restaurant in western Spain back in October.

They made off with a bottle of 1806 Château D’Yquem and a large haul of Domaine de la Romanée Conti after breaking into Atrio’s famous cellar.

That sparked a nine-month international manhunt. Police in Spain teamed up with Interpol and Europol, plus authorities in Romania and the Netherlands, to track a pair of suspects down.

They eventually swooped on a 29-year-old Mexican woman and her Romanian-Dutch accomplice in Croatia this week.

Spain’s Policía Nacional said the couple visited the restaurant three times to scope it out before carrying out the theft.

The woman, described by El Pais as ‘a former beauty queen’, checked into Atrio Hotel using fake Swiss identity documents before the heist.

The couple dined in the restaurant, which has two Michelin stars, before taking a tour of the wine cellar.

Spanish police said the woman later distracted staff by asking for food to be prepared after the kitchen had closed, while her accomplice ransacked the cellar.

‘After using a previously purloined master key to gain access, he emerged with three large rucksacks – one on his back and two in each hand – which held the bottles he had stashed, and which were stuffed with hotel towels to protect the bottles,’ said Policía Nacional in a statement.

The couple scarpered at 5.30am the next day. Atria’s owners alerted the police, and the story hit headlines around the world.

Atria’s distraught co-owner and sommelier José Polo told Decanter he would buy the wine back from the robbers, especially the 1806 Château D’Yquem. ‘More than the bottles of wine, they robbed our dreams,’ said Polo.

The couple fled Spain a few days later, zigzagging across Europe to escape detection. However, they were finally tracked down on the Montenegro-Croatia border this week. Police reported that the man was the subject of two outstanding arrest warrants in Madrid.

‘Following numerous inquiries, in both Spain and other countries, officers managed to identify the two suspects, noting the high degree of professionalism, specialisation and perfect planning that had gone into the theft,’ said Policía Nacional.

The stolen wine has not been recovered and the investigation is ongoing.

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