Phones stolen in Netherlands found in Bulgarian store

Smartphone store Occasion Den Haag in Bulgaria
Smartphone store Occasion Den Haag in BulgariaPhoto: Politie

An investigation into money laundering and stolen goods possession against a 44-year-old Bulgarian man and his 43-year-old wife, both living in The Hague, led the police to solving of over 260 smartphone thefts in the Netherlands. The phones were sold in a store in Bulgaria with the striking name "Occasion Den Haag", the police said in a statement on Friday.

Last year seven people from different Dutch cities reported their smartphones being stolen by pickpockets. The 'find my iPhone' app showed that all phones were at the same address in Schilderswijk, The Hague.

The police launched an investigation into the residents of this address. Multiple people known to the police, among other things as pickpockets, visited the address. The main occupant, a 44-year-old Bulgarian man, had no registered income, but was still able to pay a large part of an expensive car in cash. Local residents also told the community police officer that he is known as a man of standing, with many expensive possessions. Local residents also regularly saw expensive cars at the house.

When the community officer saw the man and his wife loading their car, apparently to go on holiday, in July last year, the Public Prosecutor decided to have them arrested. In the house the police seized a considerable amount of cash, various stolen smartphones, and a number of laptops. Hundreds of different iPhones were connected to these laptops, at least 260 of which were registered as stolen in the Netherlands. 

On Friday the police arrested another two suspects, a 48-year-old Bulgarian man and his 49-year-old wife. They are suspected of, among other things, multiple counts of pickpocketing and receiving stolen goods.  In subsequent raids in a number of buildings, the police again found stolen phones, jewelry and money. 

Further investigation revealed that the suspects took stolen phones to Bulgaria and sold them there in a shop called 'Occasion Den Haag'. From chat conversations the police deduced that a network was active that stole phones in the Netherlands and then sold them in Bulgaria. 

The Netherlands called in the Bulgarian authorities' help. The Bulgarian police recently searched three homes and a cellphone store in the city of Roese. Dutch detectives went to Bulgaria to provide assistance. In these searches, the police found and confiscated jewelry, watches, money and stolen phones.