A large-scale theft has come to light at Tenerife South Airport. 14 employees are said to have been part of a criminal organization that was involved in the theft of tourists’ luggage.
These luggage thefts took place at Tenerife Sur. This is Spain’s seventh-largest airport and a major hub. It receives more than eleven million passengers a year and 150 airlines. The Guardia Civil arrested the employees on suspicion of theft of goods and money worth almost two million euros. The operation, called Oretel, was launched after a significant increase in the number of complaints about thefts from checked baggage.
Employed as baggage handlers
The suspects, mainly working as baggage handlers, abused their position at the airport. While loading luggage onto the plane, they took the time to open suitcases and steal valuables such as jewelry, cell phones, and electronic equipment.
Refined working method
The investigation revealed that the employees had developed a sophisticated method to carry out the thefts. They only opened the suitcases in the hold of the plane and installed security tarps to conceal their activities. These tarps are normally there to prevent luggage from moving freely in the aircraft compartment. Hence, their working methods were so sophisticated that travelers only discovered that they missed some of their belongings after returning home. The fact that they were in another country and had sometimes traveled through another airport made it difficult to determine where the theft had occurred.
As part of the investigation, the Guardia Civil searched several locations. These included employee lockers, private vehicles, and homes. Consequently, during these operations, officers seized luxury watches, jewelry, expensive mobile phones, electronics, 13,000 euros in cash, and a luxury car. The total amount of recovered stolen goods amounted to 1,953,571 euros.
In addition to the arrests, the Guardia Civil investigated 27 jewelry stores in the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife for involvement in receiving and selling the stolen goods.
Luggage theft raises questions about safety in airports
Spanish authorities emphasize the seriousness of these crimes and their impact on confidence in the airport’s security. In response to this incident, the authorities are considering measures to strengthen security at airports. This may include stricter screening procedures for airport staff and improved surveillance and security technologies.