Chilean “burglary tourists” who raided TV chef Marcus Wareing’s London home were known criminals wanted at home over a catalogue of serious offences, the Standard reveals today.
Danko Carvajal-Donaire, 20, had four outstanding arrest warrants and was detained early last year in Spain for using a false passport. He was arrested again in Italy a few weeks later and deported back to Chile.
Jorge Rojas, 22, was deported from the US last March and denied entry to Germany a month later.
Despite this, both men were able to enter the UK in October to carry out the £33,000 raid on Wareing’s £5 million Wimbledon home while the Michelin-starred restaurateur and his wife Jane were away.
Last month Carvajal-Donaire and Rojas were jailed for 40 months along with accomplices Nicolas Portilla Astorga, 27, and Claudio Donoso, 20.
The Kingston crown court convictions were hailed as a victory for Scotland Yard’s Operation Genie crackdown on “burglary tourism”, where thieves are flown into the UK by organised gangs specifically to target wealthy homeowners.
But our findings, which follow a joint investigation by the Evening Standard and Chilean magazine Revista Capital, raise questions about the apparent ease with which known criminals can enter Britain.
Stephen Hammond, the MP for Wimbledon, where a series of other high-value burglaries have taken place in recent months, asked: “Why weren’t these people checked properly? If one of these people was deported from the US, it’s probably a good reason not to give him a tourist visa to the UK.”
He called for a review of border controls, adding: “The Home Office and the Border Force need to check their systems and we need to strengthen intelligence-sharing between the UK and other authorities, because these are new groups of individuals.
“At a national level, we need to review why the systems aren’t working properly. I want my residents to be safe.
“We ought to have in place the mechanisms that stop these sort of well-known criminals, or acknowledged criminals, in their own countries from coming to the UK to commit crime.”
When Carvajal-Donaire arrived in the UK in October ahead of the Wareing break-in, he had a number of outstanding arrest warrants in his home country for crimes including robbery and gun possession.
Four months earlier he had been deported back there from Italy, having previously been arrested in Spain for using identity documents belonging to his brother Jordan, according to statements by Chile’s civilian police force, the PDI.
When the gang was arrested in Banstead, Surrey, on October 15, four days after the burglary, Carvajal-Donaire was still using the identity of his brother who has been serving a five-year jail term in Chile since 2016.
Rojas, who had outstanding arrest warrants in Chile for violent robbery, was deported from the US on March 16 last year.
The following month he was denied entry to Germany due to his “negative background”, the PDI said. But six months later he was able to travel to the UK to take part in the Wareing raid.
Donoso and Astorga had police records in Chile for “crimes against property”, according to the PDI. Donoso had been deported from Spain in 2018.
Tony Smith, a former director general of the UK Border Force, said identifying foreign criminals was a constant “game of cat and mouse”.
He added: “The UK Border Force is only as good as the information it’s given by other parties. Unless somebody tells the UK that these people are criminals, how would we know?
“To think there’s some sort of magic bullet out there to stop criminals moving around the world, there isn’t.”
Mr Smith continued: “There are things going on, but you’re trying to keep up with the criminals all the time. It’s a game of cat and mouse.
“A lot of flaws in our borders are being slowly fixed, but you’re never going to completely cure this because the criminals are always looking for a way round and you’re just trying to keep up.”
Last July the Chilean passport was named the most widely accepted in Latin America, allowing visa-free travel to 174 countries including the UK.
Héctor Espinosa, the director of Chile’s civilian police force, said that during last year the country’s Interpol office was informed of 145 Chileans detained abroad, “mainly for crimes against property”.
“Seventy-five of those had pending arrest warrants in our country and 85 were detained in Europe for the crime of theft — half of them for home burglaries,” he said. “If the person has completed their sentence [in Chile] they have no impediment to leaving the country. That is the problem that we have, because we know that they are habitual or specialised criminals.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We are doing everything in our power to prevent foreign criminals entering our country, including carrying out checks on all new arrivals at passport control.
“Border Force officers can, and do refuse entry to any known foreign national offenders.
“Closer working between the police and Home Office immigration enforcement in recent years has led to the earlier identification and checking of foreign national offenders.”
Affluent London suburbs targeted in growing trend
by Anthony France
Burglary tourism is a growing trend in the UK with thieves flying in to target high-end properties.
Hundreds of homes across the country have been targeted over the past decade.
Scotland Yard set up Operation Genie in 2017 specifically to target the international thieves. Information gathered is shared with the UK Border Agency and Europol to build a “robust intelligence” picture.
South American gangs, mainly from Chile, bring in criminals to break into homes in London suburbs and the Home Counties.
Recruited in their home country, they are put on a flight to the UK to enter as tourists. Here they meet a contact who gives them a car and phones once they hand over their ID papers.
Homes in affluent areas such as Wimbledon are pre-selected as targets, with burglars instructed how to beat security alarms, where to enter and which valuables to hunt for. Police have warned the gangs often use one person to scout out an area ahead of time, or stand watch nearby.
Burglars are thought to have used such a tactic for the £500,000 raid in December on the gated property which Crystal Palace footballer Mamadou Sakho rents from ex-Chelsea and Arsenal player Nicolas Anelka. There have been no arrests.