Thieves flown in from Chile to commit burglaries
A gang of Chilean thieves are believed to be responsible for a spate of burglaries with property worth more than Â£1 million being stolen.
The South Americans were flown into the country by an organised criminal network and are thought to be behind hundreds of break-ins.
In the past eight months 36 people, all believed to be Chilean nationals, have been arrested, Scotland Yard said.
Sixteen have been convicted of burglary-related offences, and of the remaining 20, eight have been deported.
Twelve of the Latin Americans left the country after being released under investigation.
Tracking the movements of the vehicles used by the suspects, Met detectives discovered they would often commit offences within a week of flying into the country.
The investigation, known as Operation Genie, started following a spate of burglaries in the south-west London and Surrey areas in 2017.
Typically the burglars targeted unoccupied addresses situated in rural areas, often near parks or golf courses.
They gained access to the first floor of the property using furniture found in the garden such as tables, chairs and ladders.
This method of entry ensured that alarm systems, which only covered the ground floor, were not triggered.
High-value items, including designer clothes, handbags, jewellery and watches, were then stolen.
Some attempts were also made to transport the stolen property back out of the country.
As a result of the identification of these vehicles, a number of people were arrested in London, as well as Hertfordshire, Surrey and Sussex, during the first four months of 2018.
Detective Inspector Tim Court, an organised crime adviser who co-ordinated the investigation, said: "As a result of this investigation, a large group of criminals, who were responsible for hundreds of burglaries in the London area in the past couple of years, have been imprisoned or deported.
"These offences were carried out in an organised way and the offenders appear to have come to London with the intention of carrying out burglaries.
"I would like to thank the Chilean Embassy, which has provided a great deal of support in helping to identify the people responsible for these crimes."