The man and woman evaded capture for almost nine months before being arrested on the Montenegro-Croatia border on Tuesday for stealing 45 bottles of wine from the Atrio restaurant in Cáceres, western Spain, according to a statement from Spain’s national police.
The total value of the stolen wine was €1,648,500 (around $1.68 million) and one individual bottle was valued at €310,000, said police.
The heist took place on October 27, 2021 and was planned in “minute detail,” with the thieves visiting the restaurant three times to prepare the raid, said officers.
The suspects “showed a high level of professionalism, specialization and perfect planning,” added the police statement.
Investigators found that the woman booked into the Atrio hotel using a fake Swiss document, and had dinner in the restaurant with her male accomplice.
Both suspects were then given a tour of the wine cellar by staff, which is a common occurrence, according to police.
They then went up to their hotel room together, but the man left a few moments later and returned to the cellar.
He got in using a stolen master key, and left a few minutes later with three large rucksacks filled with stolen wine, stuffed with hotel towels to cushion the bottles.
While he was stealing the wine, the woman distracted staff by asking for some food to be prepared, police said, despite the fact that the kitchen was already closed.
Staff noticed the missing bottles the next morning, but the suspects had left the premises at around 5 a.m.
The thieves left Spain a few days after the heist and moved around various European countries, making it difficult for agents to pinpoint their exact location, said police.
But authorities finally caught up with them entering Croatia from Montenegro at the Karasovi Sutorina border crossing.
Spanish police hailed the “perfect coordination” between national and international investigators from authorities including Interpol.
At the time of his arrest the male suspect had two more warrants outstanding from a court in Madrid, said police.
The most valuable bottle was an 1806 Château D’Yquem, José Polo, co-owner and sommelier of the restaurant, told Decanter magazine in November 2021.
Polo said he would buy back the stolen bottles from the thieves, in particular the 1806 Château D’Yquem.
“More than the bottles of wine, they robbed our dreams,” he told Decanter.