Four members of a Colombian drug cartel were behind the thefts of expensive medical instruments used in gastrointestinal examinations from four Greek hospitals in May, police announced on Wednesday. Greek authorities said that they have so far identified three of the four suspects, aged 20, 37 and 50 years old.
The gang stole instruments worth hundreds of thousands of euros from Aghios Savvas state hospital in Athens and state general hospitals in the Greek cities of Larisa, Lamia and Volos.
According to the head of the Attica Security Police Christos Papazafiris, the fourth suspect was a woman, who is now being interrogated by Colombian authorities.
The four suspects are believed to be members of a cartel that had carried out similar heists throughout Europe.
While in Greece, the ring stole 500,000 euros of medical equipment and supplies from Aghios Savvas on May 15, another 115,000 euros from the Lamia and Larisa General Hospitals between May 19-22 and two gastroscopes from Volos General Hospital on May 21.
Based on an investigation by the Crimes Against Life and Property department of the Attica Security Police, and in collaboration with police forces abroad, it is believed to be the same ring that also stole medical equipment from Luxembourg, Spain, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, France, Croatia and Lithuania.
Following up information supplied by French police that packages of medical instruments were posted to Colombia, the Greek police tracked the movements of the suspects and found that they had entered Greece via Turkey, renting an apartment via the internet. They also used rented cars to travel about and locate cities with hospitals they could target.
In the Athens area, police believe they “cased” Aghios Savvas, Euroclinic and Laiko Hospital and that they gained entry into Aghios Savvas hospital by posing as patients in need of treatment.
Authorities believe the instruments and supplies stolen are used to facilitate the secret transportation and recovery of ingested drugs being smuggled across borders.
Members of the ring operating in Greece sent two packages of the stolen medical equipment to Colombia via courier, each time to the same recipient from the same sender. They then left Greece using fake travel documents on May 25, flying to a Latin American country via Spain. One of the packages they posted, containing goods stolen from Aghios Savvas and Larisa has been recovered, in collaboration with police in Bogota.