Brazilian police say they are hunting a gang of mostly blonde young women who have committed a series of kidnaps and robberies in Sao Paulo. The criminals have been targeting wealthy women in shopping centres, Sao Paulo’s anti-kidnap police unit says.

The victims are followed to their cars, where they are robbed and held captive at gunpoint while the gang uses their credit cards to make luxury purchases. Police said the “blonde gang” consisted of young, educated, middle-class women.

Sao Paulo civil police anti-kidnap division chief Joaquim Dias Alves said: “One or two speak more than one language, and some have been educated overseas. They are really pretty girls, well-dressed and made up,” he said. The gang tend to target women who look similar to them, so they can assume the victim’s identity while they use their credit cards.

They are thought to have been operating for three years, and to have robbed at least 50 people. Police say they have begun to break up the gang, with three suspects arrested, including one man. So-called “express kidnappings” – where victims are held for a few hours while their bank accounts and credit cards are drained – are a common crime in Latin America.

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