Saucy gang cuts no mustard with police

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The Independent Online
MADRID - Police here have nobbled the leaders of the 'Mustard Gang', which used the condiment and other props to rob tourists, writes Phil Davison. One of the gang's would-be victims was a former member of MI6, whose intelligence experience saved the day: he escaped with his wallet intact.

The gang had been operating at Madrid's Barajas airport, at the Chamartin railway station and other tourists spots. They would squirt a tourist from behind with mustard or ketchup, then point out the stain and relieve him or her of his wallet.

It happened to the ex-MI6 man recently on a busy avenue in the Salamanca district. He and his interpreter heard shouts of 'Watch out, he's throwing mustard' and saw a young man and woman pointing to a roof-top above. One of the gang pointed out a line of mustard down the back of the interpreter's coat. But she and the retired agent, made suspicious by the conwoman's South American accent, clung to their briefcases as the original two, and a third passer-by, jostled them. The three ran off empty-handed.

The gang also favoured a scam on tourists in hired cars. The vehicle's front tyre would be punctured and, when the tourists appeared, a couple of 'random' passers-by would offer to help. While the victims and 'helpers' removed the wheel, a third gang member was removing more valuable items from within the car.

Madrid police said two of the three leaders caught were Peruvians. But five gang members are thought still to be free - so tourists beware]