Spain’s national police force Guardia Civil arrested 14 workers at Tenerife South Airport (TFS) on suspicion of stealing watches, laptops, and other valuables from checked-in luggage.
Officers seized items worth nearly EUR 2 million ($2.1 million) including 29 luxury watches, 22 high-end smartphones and 120 pieces of jewelry, as part of their operation on December 15, 2023.
Aside from the 14 arrested workers, a further 20 airport employees are currently being investigated for theft.
The Guardia Civil launched an investigation after receiving a marked increase in complaints and reports regarding missing items filed by passengers going through Tenerife South Airport.
Authorities believe the thefts occurred when baggage was placed in the aircraft hold, with suspects forcibly opening the suitcases and removing valuables when out of sight of passengers and other employees.
Police claim that once the suspects had gone through the luggage and picked out the items, the suitcases were then closed carefully to conceal signs of tampering.
The suspects are thought to have sold the stolen items to local and online shops. According to the Guardia Civil, 27 jewelry stores in Tenerife are also under investigation.
The suspects face charges of membership in a criminal group, robbery by force, and money laundering.
Tenerife South Airport is the main airport in Tenerife and the second busiest in Spain’s Canary Islands, after Gran Canaria Airport (LPS). In 2022, it handled around 11 million passengers.
This incident is not the first high-profile airport theft case in Spain. In August 2023, A Hermes Birkin Bag containing €8.5 million ($9.3 million) worth of jewels was stolen by two thieves at Aeroport de Barcelona-El Prat (BCN). The thieves used a rental car to get away but were eventually located by Catalan police in the city of Salt.