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A former beauty pageant contestant from Mexico has reportedly been arrested in Croatia after a nine-month police chase across Europe over allegations she and an accomplice stole 45 bottles of wine worth nearly $1.7 million from a Michelin-starred restaurant in Spain last year.
A 29-year-old woman–who competed in beauty pageants in her native Mexico, according to El Pais–and her 47-year-old male accomplice, whom authorities described as Romanian-Dutch, were recently arrested while entering Croatia through Montenegro, according to Spain’s national police.
The two had been evading police for nine months after they allegedly targeted Hotel Atrio, a well-known luxury hotel located in the walled city of Cáceres in western Spain that features an in-house restaurant with two Michelin stars.
Police trailed the two across Europe before they were detained by Croatian border guards in an international police operation with groups including Interpol, Europol and police in Croatia, Romania and the Netherlands.
The names of the two suspects have not been released by authorities, pending extradition and charges, but police said the man had two other warrants for his arrests issued in Madrid.
The investigation remains open and the wine has still not been recovered, Atrio’s sommelier José Polo told El Pais Wednesday.
$316,000. That’s how much one of the stolen bottles was worth, police said. It was a rare bottle of Chateau d’ Yquem from 1806, according to El Pais. Atrio chef Toño Pérez told the newspaper last year that the theft of the bottle was particularly sad because the rare wine was “impossible to replace,” and had been around for “215 years of history of Spain, of wars, times of peace and the construction of a united Europe.”
Police say the two suspects visited Atrio three times before the heist. In October, the two booked a stay using false Swiss identity documents and had dinner at the hotel restaurant. Following an Atrio tradition, waitstaff invited the pair after dinner to see the restaurant’s massive historic wine cellar that according to El Pais is large enough to hold 40,000 bottles. Later, the male suspect returned to the cellar using a stolen master key while the woman distracted restaurant staff by asking for food after the kitchen closed, police said. Security footage released by authorities shows the man returning with three large backpacks full of wine. The hotel did not discover the wine missing until after the pair left the hotel at 5:30 the next morning, and the suspects left Spain within days of the heist, police said.