Romanian gang are jailed for £1m gold robberies

A JUDGE warned eastern European criminals British courts would not be a “soft touch” as he jailed a Romanian gang for a £1m gold robbery campaign.

The ten gang members came to the UK specifically to commit the crimes and had not done a day’s legitimate work while here, Old Bailey Judge Timothy Pontius said.

He gave them sentences totalling 82 years and ten months despite guilty pleas and the gang having no previous convictions.

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They were also told they would be deported after serving their sentences.

The judge said the gang had entered the UK as European 
Union citizens with the intention of robbing jewellery shops of 
large amounts of high-quality gold.

Only a fraction of their haul had been recovered from the six raids or attempted raids – leaving the robbers with £1m.

Judge Pontius said: “None of the defendants appear to have done an honest day’s work while they were here. All will be deported, and rightly so.”

He said there were fears that an influx of people from Romania and Bulgaria, when restrictions are lifted next year, would lead to an increase in crime.

And the judge warned: “Anyone who comes to the UK – irrespective of whatever part of the world – wanting to commit serious crime, must clearly understand such abuse of the hospitality of this country and its people must be seriously punished.

“It follows that the more grave the crime, the more severe the retribution will be.

“No one should think for a moment that courts in the UK will be a soft touch.

“Sentences such as these must be a powerful deterrent not only to homegrown but imported criminals.”

The gang carried out seven raids in six months, emptying display cabinets and fleeing in minutes before police could respond to alarms.

They were caught after police kept watch on a makeshift campsite they were using on waste ground near the A12 in Essex.

After being arrested, Ovidiu Gabor, 25, told police: “I don’t care, I go to prison to go on holiday.”

The gang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob.

Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said: “This was a sophisticated, well-planned conspiracy deliberately targeting jewellers.

“All the defendants are Romanian. These are all relatively young men who came to this country to rob.”

They targeted Asian and Turkish jewellers where there was a
large quantity of high-carat gold which could be melted down and sold.

The usual plan involved one of the gang, dressed in pin-stripes and a trilby hat, being buzzed in and holding the door for an accomplice to smash his way in with a sledgehammer.

The rest of the gang would then run in and smash display cabinets with bats and hammers before fleeing with gold jewellery.

They would make off over railway lines, discarding their weapons and outer clothing.

The gang netted more than £1.1m last year but only £135,580 has been recovered.

Marius Barbu, 25, Vasile Batarga, 23, Ioan Gavrilit, 26, and Iulian Culba, 22, were each jailed for nine years and four months.

Iulian Roman, 21, was jailed for nine years and six months which included a concurrent sentence of seven years for a £1m raid on a jewellers in February last year.

Constantin Irina, 30, was jailed for eight years, and Georghe Macovei, 23, and Ovidiu Gabor, 25, for seven years.

Puiu-Danut Paunescu, 26, was jailed for seven years and three months, and Catalin Paise, 20, for six years and nine months.