They wined, dined and fled - but law finally catches up with Spain wine thieves
MADRID (Reuters) -A former Mexican beauty queen and her partner enjoyed a 14-course dinner at Atrio's Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel in western Spain followed by a guided tour of its wine cellar.
But when they left the hotel before dawn the next morning, they had spirited away 45 bottles of some of the finest wines available to humanity, worth a total of about $1.7 million.
The law eventually caught up with them, however.
A court in the city of Careres said on Monday the woman had been sentenced to four years in prison and her Romanian-Dutch accomplice to four-and-a-half years after it found them guilty of aggravated robbery.
They were also ordered to pay damages to insurers worth over 750,000 euros ($799,000), the court said in a statement. It gave their names only as Tatiana and Estanislao.
According to the court, the 29-year-old Mexican checked in to the hotel in October 2021 using a fake Swiss passport and carrying only a backpack. A hotel employee who lifted the bag noticed it weighed very little.
The woman, who according to El Pais newspaper had competed in a beauty pageant in her homeland, was later joined by her 47-year-old male accomplice.
They had a 14-course dinner at the hotel's restaurant and were then taken on tour of the wine cellar.
Shortly after 2 a.m., she ordered a salad to her room, distracting the sole night staff member and allowing her accomplice to swipe an electronic key from reception.
After he failed to gain access to the cellar as he had taken the wrong key, the woman tried another diversion by asking for a dessert.
The man managed to retrieve a master key and sneak into the cellar, where he stuffed 45 bottles - including a unique 19th-century vintage worth 350,000 euros - into the backpack and two bags with towels to prevent the glass from clinking.
The couple left the hotel before dawn and quickly fled Spain, but after a nine-month hunt across Europe, they were detained by border guards while crossing from Montenegro into Croatia.
($1 = 0.9386 euros)
(Reporting by David Latona; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)