Armed men bust 'Pink Panthers' jewel thief out of Swiss prison

Bosnian Milan Poparic, in an undated photo released by Swiss police, was on the lam Friday after he was freed from prison in Switzerland by an armed gang. Swiss police via AFP - Getty Images

ZURICH - Armed men have broken a member of the so-called 'Pink Panthers' gang of jewel thieves out of a Swiss prison, police said on Friday.

Bosnian gang member Poparic Milan escaped the jail in the Swiss canton of Vaud on Thursday night, along with another prisoner, after accomplices in two vehicles forced their way through a gate and fired at prison guards.

The Pink Panthers, who have a weakness for expensive watches, have staged about 340 robberies on luxury stores in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States since 1999, making off with booty worth more than $436 million, according to Interpol.

Milan, 34, had been serving a jail sentence of six years and eight months for robbing a jewelry store in Switzerland's watch-making capital Neuchatel in 2009.

Known for their spectacular heists, the gang drove two cars into a Dubai shopping mall and through the window of a jewelry store in 2007, swiping goods worth about $14 million in a raid lasting less than a minute.

The following year the group walked away with loot worth up to $110 million after entering the Harry Winston jewelers in central Paris disguised as women.