Determined thieves and robbers will stop at nothing to get their hands on other people’s jewelry and diamonds. Here’s a roundup of some of the more audacious stories of the year so far.
In a dazzling arranged operation, a four-person gang in India was arrested for having stolen polished diamonds from a number of safes from the Bank of India’s Opera House branch in Mumbai’s diamond district over a number of months.
One of the gang members was a master locksmith who fabricated duplicate keys, including the bank custodian’s keys, from impressions created by other gang members posing as bank customers visiting their deposited items. The locksmith reportedly took three months to painstakingly craft the bank custodian’s keys from impressions brought back by other gang members.
The thieves allegedly broke into some 16 safes over an extended period of time. At least 27 duplicate keys were created.
The case was exposed when Mehul Doshi, a diamond dealer, reported a theft of diamonds worth $355,000 from his safe. The thieves were tracked down only after the police carefully analyzed more than 36,000 log-entries for the locker room over a three-year period and found that the same three people seemed to have been repeatedly in the locker room at the same time.
As usual, trade shows continue to be a big temptation for thieves. At this year’s Baselworld show in Switzerland, goods worth some $10 million were swiped from a showcase belonging to Andre Messika.
The thieves loosened the display’s window after hours, when diamonds are stored in safes and security is low. During the morning hours, and after the diamonds were returned to the display case, the window was apparently removed and the diamonds stolen.
Proving the importance of adequate insurance, Messika was reimbursed in full for the missing goods. Apparently, just minutes after the crime was reported, representatives of Malca-Amit and its subsidiary insurance broker MIRA, were on-site to help him deal with the aftermath of the theft. Within a week, a full investigation into the incident had been completed and MIRA had obtained underwriters approval for payment of the insurance claim in full.
“Never before in the diamond and jewelry industry has there been such a quick settlement of a claim of this magnitude,” said Nigel Paxman, CEO Malca-Amit Global Ltd.
Malca-Amit said that the increase in professional criminal groups targeting jewelry trade shows has been on the rise in recent years.
Proving that sometimes even goods that look as if they are gone forever can turn up in the most unlikely of places, a plastic container housing $25 million worth of jewels was found in a Paris sewer in March. The goods were believed to be part of the $108 million worth of jewelry stolen from a Harry Winston boutique in Paris more than two years ago.
The plastic container was set in cement under a home belonging to one of the suspects in the crime and contained 19 rings and three pairs of earrings.
Back in December 2008, four gunmen, three of whom were dressed as women, walked into the Harry Winston store just before closing time. With customers in the store and Christmas shoppers passing right outside its door, the four made off with the diamonds and diamond jewelry in one of the biggest operations in history.
In Hong Kong, Chinese police shut down a diamond smuggling ring. Twenty-eight people were arrested between January and March and diamonds worth $31 million were confiscated, making it one of the largest busts in diamond history.
Among the arrested suspects were 22 Indian nationals and three Hong Kong locals.
The investigation into the gang started after a Hong Kong resident reported that he had been robbed of diamonds worth three million Yuan ($~0.5 million) in Shenzhen in 2009, said a report in the South China Morning Post.
The diamonds are believed to have been smuggled into Hong Kong from India, sold to jewelry factories before they were distributed to retailers.