March 21, 2023


At the end of October 2021, a robbery worthy of a mystery novel caught the attention of an entire country and a sector, that of gastronomy. The Extremaduran restaurant Atrio, run by chef Toño Pérez and his partner, José Polo, was raided at dawn and what they themselves called “45 jewels” were stolen from its famous winery: almost fifty of the more than 40,000 bottles that They are stored in the basement of the establishment with two Michelin stars. Now, nine months later, the National Police have reported that they have arrested the alleged thieves, who hauled off loot valued at 1,648,500 euros. Of the bottles, yes, for the moment no trace.

The Police statement explains that the detainees are a man and a woman – something that was already known when the abduction occurred – and that they have been located in Croatia, thanks to coordination with the border police of that country, as well as Europol and Interpol, among other security bodies. As they reveal in their note, both had “great professionalism, specialization and perfect planning of the robbery”; in fact, they visited Atrio up to three times before committing it. Apparently, the couple left Spain shortly after it and according to the Police “their high mobility and roaming has prevented their exact whereabouts from being known until, finally, they were located entering Croatia from Montenegro through the Karasovi Sutorina border post.”

José Polo, Atrio’s sommelier, reported in a telephone conversation the enormous surprise that he and Pérez felt when they heard the news. And it wasn’t the police who told them: they found out from the media. “We don’t know anything else,” he admits, “the only thing they’ve told us is that tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12 there’s a press conference (at the Cáceres police station), but they haven’t told us anything.” However, despite the fact that the future return of his bottles —among them and especially one from Chateau d’Yquem from 1806 valued at more than 310,000 euros— does not seem at all assured, for Polo the news is a joy. “Of course. At least they have been caught, and the truth is that I never thought they could be caught, they were not Spanish, and everything was so well done that I never thought they could be caught. It has been a job very well done.”

Toño Pérez explained to this newspaper last October that he was “terrible, very sad”, because it was not a “question of money”, but that those wines were part of his “history” and his “life”. They also both recounted in a letter sent to the media that the 19th century Chateau d’Yquem was, beyond its price, an object that was tremendously appreciated by him: “That bottle was part of my personal history, almost part of me, of the history of Atrio, but also of Cáceres, of its citizens, of all lovers of the world of wine; she is the bottle, impossible to replace for what effort, sacrifice and love for a profession and wine has entailed. 215 years of Spanish history, wars, times of peace and the construction of a united Europe”. Polo and Pérez —professional and sentimental tandem for four decades— bought the bottle in the year 2000; in 2001 and after an accident it broke, but its contents could be recovered. It was not the only one with tradition: six more were from the 19th century. The 38 stolen bottles of Romanée Conti also stood out: “There are only 3,500 bottles per year; there’s no more. It is an arduous task to get them”, explained Polo. The average price of each of them on the Atrio menu is 12,000 euros.

Jose Polo and Toño Perez together with the manager of the Insurance Broker Sánchez Castañón de Zafra (Badajoz) ATRIO 03/17/2022
Jose Polo and Toño Perez together with the manager of the Insurance Broker Sánchez Castañón de Zafra (Badajoz) ATRIO 03/17/2022ATRIUM (Europa Press)

What happened was worthy of a movie. On the night of October 27, a couple made up of a man and a woman went to Atrio —which in addition to being a restaurant is a hotel of the Relais & Châteaux chain— after making a reservation. “They spoke English,” Polo recalled last fall. After dinner, they visited the winery, something usual, and went to their room, although only the woman, who was the one who had reserved, was registered. After one in the morning they called room service and ordered something to eat; They were told that the kitchen was closed but that if they wished they would bring them a salad. “We think that at that moment they went down, opened two doors with electronic locks, with the lights off, and took 45 pieces of jewelry,” Polo explained at the time. “At five in the morning, the same couple came down with bags, paid and walked out the door.”

Last March, Polo and Pérez reached an agreement with their insurance company, the final amount of which was not disclosed because they signed a confidentiality clause by which they cannot reveal the amount obtained or what they will charge or which company they had contracted with. policy. More mystery for the novel.

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