Estonian who joined international gang of jewel thieves jailed 10 years

An Estonian who took part in an armed robbery at a jewellers in Yorkshire after being recruited by an international gang, has been jailed for 10 years.

Rauna Kuklase had already been involved in a similar raid at premises in Blackpool about five months before he and others struck at Berry’s in Albion Street, Leeds in February 2007.

Sentencing him yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, the Recorder of Leeds Judge Peter Collier QC, said in both cases the raids were ”executed with ruthless precision.”

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One man tricked his way in posing as a genuine customer and once inside produced a gun which staff were not to know was an imitation.

His accomplices then used hammers to smash display cases and steal valuable watches, getting away with goods worth nearly half a million pounds.

He said the “meticulous planning” of the gang’s operation was demonstrated by the fact not one watch had been recovered although many of those involved had been tracked down.

Kuklase, 27, admitted both robberies and possessing an imitation firearms.

Clare Stevens, prosecuting, told the court that as a result of a fingerprint outside the window of the jewellers in Blackpool and clothing discarded after the Leeds offence Kuklase’s identity was discovered.

However, police found that he was already serving a sentence in Italy for a similar robbery.

In December 2008 a court in Genoa ordered him to be handed over to West Yorkshire police at the conclusion of his sentence.

In September earlier this year after he had served three years three months in an Italian jail Kuklase was collected from Rome and brought back to face justice.

Simon Alexander, for Kuklase, told the court his client was being put under pressure to repay debts in Estonia and travelled to the UK to find work.

When he could not find work in this country fellow Estonians he met who had already been recruited for previous robberies persuaded him to join their gang in the raids.