Dozens of airport baggage handlers were arrested in Italy last week after allegedly swiping valuables from passenger luggage. According to police, the thefts were all committed by employees of Alitalia, a major Italian airline, and took place at numerous airports across the country.
On Friday, the Italian National Police announced the arrests of 86 Alitalia employees, resulting from an 18-month-long sting operation. After receiving numerous complaints of theft from passengers, authorities installed hidden cameras in the cargo holds at several airports. The captured footage revealed airline workers repeatedly stealing money and personal items from suitcases.
According to police, the thefts occurred on board Alitalia airplanes, in areas designated for loading and unloading passenger luggage.
In roughly 2,000 hours of footage, the airline’s baggage handlers were recorded purposefully damaging packages, picking luggage locks and slicing open suitcases to reveal their contents.
One employee was reportedly captured on film repeatedly smashing a package marked with labels indicating it contained electronic equipment. Another employee was taped while attempting to break into a suitcase by stabbing it several times.
In some cases, police allege that the baggage handlers would spitefully cause damage to passenger luggage if they were unable to successfully attain access to items packed inside.
When forcible entry into passengers’ luggage was attained, the suspected thieves would allegedly pocket any valuables found inside, such as cash, electronics, and jewelry.
According to the Italian National Police, the investigation surrounding the baggage handler thefts and the identification of those involved was conducted with cooperation from Alitalia personnel.
In a statement to AFP News following the suspects’ arrests, the airline concurred. “Our security services have collaborated closely with the police,” a spokesperson for Alitalia explained. “The passengers who lost their luggage have been reimbursed. We are the victims here.”
The airline employees arrested during the sting operation are facing numerous criminal counts, including theft, aggravated theft, and property damage charges. If found guilty, the baggage handlers could spend up to six years behind bars.
[Top image via Wikipedia]