Vueling passengers in Spain
A probe was launched after the officials received a suspicious increase in the number of complaints from the passengers Vueling/Reuters

A popular airport in Spain's Tenerife Island is in the middle of a massive £1.7million suitcase and robbery scam.

Around 14 workers at Tenerife South Airport have been arrested on suspicion of stealing from passengers' suitcases, and another 20 workers are still being investigated, according to reports in English media.

The airport workers allegedly stole 120 pieces of jewellery, and the investigators recovered goods worth a total of £1.7million.

"The Civil Guard, within the framework of the so-called Oretel operation, has arrested 14 people and investigated another 20, all of them workers at the Sur-Reina Sofía airport in Tenerife, as alleged perpetrators of the crimes of belonging to a criminal group, robbery with force, damages and money laundering," a police spokesperson said in a statement.

After a significant increase in the number of complaints filed by travellers claiming they had been the victims of thefts, the airport officials launched a probe to look into the matter.

The Spanish Civil Guard has claimed that some of the robberies took place as airport workers loaded bags into the holds of planes, making sure to slow down the process somewhat so they could get into the pieces of luggage without anyone noticing.

The robbers supposedly used clothing with interior seams made manually as well as their personal lockers at the airport to hide the stolen objects.

The Civil Guard carried out many searches, both at the lockers of these airport workers and in their private vehicles and homes. Apart from the 120 pieces of jewellery, the other items recovered included 22 high-end mobile phones, electronic devices, 13,000 euros in cash and a vehicle.

The gang of robbers allegedly opened the luggage inside the hold, puncturing the zippers of the suitcases to open them completely.

"Once they had removed the objects they were interested in from inside, including jewellery, cell phones, watches, and electronic devices, they closed the zipper again to leave the suitcase without any signs of tampering," a Civil Guard spokesperson said.

It is also understood that the accused airport workers constructed a wall of suitcases in a warehouse where bags were stored so they could break into other items without being caught. Each member of the organised group had a different job, from choosing the correct flight to target and hiding the stolen objects, to removing those items from the airport facilities and selling the stolen goods on the internet or at jewellery stores.