LONDON (AP) — Members of a gang of international jewel thieves who stole millions in gems and other valuables from wealthy victims including Formula One heiress Tamara Ecclestone were sentenced to prison terms Monday by a British judge.
Italian citizens Jugoslav Jovanovic, 24, Alessandro Maltese, 45, and Alessandro Donati, 44, struck three London mansions during a two-week burglary spree in December 2019.
They targeted the homes of Chelsea soccer star Frank Lampard and his wife Christine, the late Leicester City soccer club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and Ecclestone, daughter of motor racing magnate Bernie Ecclestone.
By far the biggest theft was at the home beside London's Hyde Park of Ecclestone, who was on vacation in Lapland with her husband, daughter and dog at the time. Police said the thieves stole jewelry, cash, diamonds and precious stones worth 25 million pounds ($34 million).
Prosecutor Timothy Cray said the thefts were “the highest value burglaries that have ever come to light” in Britain. Most of the stolen money and goods have not been recovered.
“It’s buried treasure somewhere, globally,” said Detective Constable Andrew Payne of London’s Metropolitan Police. “The plots are comparable to what you would see in a Hollywood movie but unfortunately this was real life, involving real victims who have suffered greatly by their actions.”
The three suspects, who were tracked down by British detectives and extradited from Italy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle. Maltese and Donati were each sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison by a judge at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Jovanovic, who additionally admitted money laundering, received an 11-year sentence.
The three will be sent to Italy to serve their sentences.
British prosecutors say a fourth suspect, Serbian Daniel Vukovic, was “the prime mover” behind the burglaries. U.K. authorities have tried and failed to have him extradited from Serbia to face charges.