Georgian 'Thief in Law' Crooks Bust in Spain's Burglary Crackdown

Spanish police stated they had dismantled a branch of the infamous criminal organization of Georgian roots, which was largely based in Madrid but moved around the nation, carrying out burglaries of vacant residences.

Thief in Law Spain Police SurveillanceA suspect marks an apartment as potential robbery target. (Photo: Ministerio del Interior/screenshot of surveillance camera, License)Three members of the "Thief in Law" criminal gang were caught in Lugo, in northwestern Spain, and stolen items such as luxury watches, jewelry, mobile phones, cash, and instruments to carry out the robberies were seized in a search of their houses.

The group was organized in a way that some of its members would conduct surveillance of the targeted residences, while others were in charge of lock-picking tools or other “break-in” alternative methods such as bumping, impressioning, or using universal “magic keys” to break into properties.

According to police, "Thief in Law" members would use discrete tactics like plastic markers or invisible threads to label targeted homes or buildings as vacant residences. The burglars would rob the residence later in the evenings or on weekends.

To dispose of the stolen goods, the criminals relied on a network of “receivers” who facilitated their distribution. The receivers were actually responsible for laundering the proceeds and transferring funds to Georgia and other countries where other members of the criminal network were located, read the statement.

The Spanish authorities said they first identified an itinerant group engaged in a series of home burglaries in the Madrid region. They claimed that the group was allegedly receiving logistical support from Georgian nationals who were potentially assisting other criminal groups operating both within Spain and internationally.

The investigation, according to police, further showed that the criminals were affiliated with the Georgian mafia, guided by a "Thief in Law" or "Vor v Zakone" – which is a term for a senior member of one of the criminal groups that arose in the gulag prison camps of the former Soviet Union in 1920s.

The organized criminal network reportedly had a complex hierarchical structure and operated through cells of two to four people who constantly migrated between countries, assisted by an intricate logistical network that provided them with forged documents from various countries, ensuring their anonymity, as well as safe houses leased primarily by female proxies of Georgian origin.

In July 2023, members of the "Thief in Law" group were implicated in a variety of crimes in Spain, including fraud, theft, tobacco smuggling, and the laundering of illicit assets.