March 2. 2024. 1:37

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Pair jailed after €1.6m wine heist at restaurant in Spain

A court in Spain has sentenced two people to four or four-and-a-half years in prison after the theft of €1.6 million worth of expensive wine from a high-end restaurant in a heist that made headlines around the world.

In October 2021, one of the owners of Atrio hotel and restaurant in the city of Cáceres sounded the alarm after discovering 45 bottles of wine – including a 217-year-old bottle of Château d’Yquem worth €350,000 – were missing from the cellar.

The accusations set off an international search, with law enforcement around the world working to track down those responsible for the theft described by Spanish police as a “meticulously planned”.

Nine months later, a former Mexican beauty pageant contestant and a Romanian-Dutch man were arrested in Croatia. The wines, however, have never been recovered.

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Identified in court as Priscila Lara Guevara and Constantín Dumitru, the pair were sentenced to four-and-a-half and four years respectively in prison on charges of aggravated robbery by a court in the Extremadura region.

The two were also ordered to pay about €750,000 in damages to insurers. The sentencs are not final, however, and can be appealed.

Documents released by the court on Monday described a crime that was seemingly mapped out months in advance. The pair were believed to have visited the hotel at least three times before the woman made a reservation using a fake Swiss passport.

She arrived carrying just a backpack and was joined by a man not registered as an overnight guest for dinner, the court heard. Before heading up to the room, the two took a tour of the restaurant’s prized wine-cellar.

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Just after 2am, the woman called reception to request a salad, according to the court. The receptionist initially resisted, as she was alone on the night shift and found it odd that the request came hours after the woman had been served a 14-course meal but, finally, acquiesced.

The court suggested this was the moment the man made off with a key card from reception. The key failed, however, to open the door to the cellar, the court said.

“From the cellar door, the defendant called the woman and asked her to again distract the receptionist,” it said in a statement. “Moments later, the woman again called the front desk, this time asking for a dessert. After initially objecting, the employee finally agreed to bring her some fruit.”

The man was then thought to have taken a master key card from reception. It is then that the court suggested the theft was carried out. Court documents accuse the man of entering the cellar and stuffing 45 bottles into a large rucksack and two large sport bags.

The couple checked out of the hotel at about 5am, taking with them the three bags “in which four towels from the hotel were placed in order to prevent the bottles from clinking against each other”, the court said.

During the trial last week, Dumitru denied the charges while his lawyer, Sylvia Córdoba, took aim at prosecutors’ version of events. “Forty-five bottles and four towels do not fit in two sports bags and could not be carried so lightly by this man,” she reportedly told the court.

Guevara chose to remain silent, according to Spanish media.