Watching cartoons as children made us all fantasize about “what-ifs.” What if we could actually make cartoons real? What if we could have our favorite heroes’ powers? What if our favorite characters walked among us? From G.I. Joe to Marvel’s Avengers to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, we dreamed of making our cartoon world a reality.
When a group of diamond thieves from various Balkan countries were dubbed the “Pink Panthers,” they probably weren’t necessarily sharing the same dream. They probably weren’t watching cartoons and dreaming of becoming jewel thieves, but they did succeed in making their exploits worthy of Hollywood. Some of their heists being so well orchestrated many believe they are similar to the big screen productions like The Avengers or Transformers. Video footage of the heists awes audiences when their signature car, an Audi, crashes into a jewelry store and two gun men armed with revolvers and crowbars leap out of the crash and start robbing all the diamonds they can get their hands on as helpless bystanders flee for their lives. It’s a scene from a movie made reality.
Though their robberies may seem surreal, in part because they rarely get caught, they are very much a reality and have been for over twenty years. In all this time, very little is known about a group who has stolen a staggering estimated amount of jewelry worth over $500 million. That’s a number most people cannot even understand, and the Pink Panthers have masterminded the feat through daring risks, precision planning, and flawless execution. The Pink Panthers’ exactitude rivals the care that goes into crafting a diamond.
Perhaps calling them the Pink Panthers was a bit premature, as they are more of a modern day Robin Hood and band of Merry Men. They steal from the rich and give to the poor, at least in their eyes. One of the Panthers who has spoken with reporters even stated, “There are “no victims to what we do. We scare people but we do not hurt them. We only take expensive things from rich people.” Those Panthers who have spoken with the media seem merry enough to be considered part of Robin Hood’s gang, even those who are incarcerated. And though the housing most of the Panthers live in when not imprisoned is not Sherwood Forest, it would be considered very humble housing for the amount of money they steal. “When members are caught, [a key investigator] said, agents are always shocked to see how tawdry their lives really are,” CNBC reported. “Many live in small apartments without contact with families, don’t own cars and are always on the run from authorities.”
However, they are missing at least one characteristic of being a true modern day Robin Hood: and that’s Robin Hood himself. The Pink Panthers have survived without a “leader” since their inception, as far as authorities can tell. “We are a network of teams working together,” one Panther stated, “As soon as I got involved, I became part of the network.” Many liken the structure of the Panthers to al-Qaeda in that it is a series of cells that come and go overnight, working independently. However, they are not known for extreme violence like al-Qaeda, thankfully. In all their years of robbery, one fatality has been recorded.
Maybe the Pink Panthers aren’t a modern day Robin Hood, and Interpol and other authorities will continue to try to infiltrate their ranks and stop future crimes from happening. In the meantime, one thing seems very evident about this group of jewel thieves: since diamonds will always be worth a lot of money, the Pink Panthers will always have extremely valuable loot to attempt to pilfer.
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