A UK court has heard how a woman allegedly claimed to be a gemstone expert and traded diamonds worth 4.2million pounds ($ 5.7million) for pebbles using a “sleight of hand” -passes “to a luxury London jeweler.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that Lulu Lakatos, 60, posed as a gemstone expert and visited Boodles jewelry store in London’s Mayfair in March 2016, allegedly to appraise seven diamonds on behalf of ‘a group of wealthy Russian buyers.
The diamonds, which included a 20-karat heart-shaped diamond valued at over £ 2.2million, were to be placed in a locked bag and kept in the jeweler’s safe until payment was transferred. But when Boodles’ own diamond expert grew suspicious and opened the bag the next day, she found seven small pebbles.
Prosecutor Philip Stott said the diamonds were “stolen by the accused by sleight of hand”.
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“The plot in which she would have played a vital and central role was one of the most sophisticated, planned, risky and rewarded,” he told Southwark Crown Court in London.
Lakatos, who was born in Romania but has lived in France, denies any wrongdoing. She is charged with conspiracy to steal.
Nicholas Wainwright, chairman of Boodles, one of Britain’s largest luxury jewelry brands, said in a statement he had been approached by an Israeli buyer who wanted to invest in high-value diamonds within weeks. preceding the flight. He accepted the sale of the seven diamonds following a meeting in a Monegasque hotel.
Wainwright met Lakatos in the basement of his store, along with his own diamond expert Emma Barton. As soon as Wainwright left the room to take a call from the alleged buyer, Lakatos put the padlocked purse containing the gems in his own purse, Barton told the jury.
Barton said she protested, but Stott alleged that Lakatos exchanged the purse with an identical locked bag and put it back on the table within seconds.
Prosecutors said Lakatos then worked with accomplices to escape to France in a rental car.
Two men have previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal the burglary.
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Barton said she discovered “seven garden pebbles” when she opened the purse the following evening.
Lakatos was arrested in France under a European arrest warrant last September and extradited to the UK
The trial is expected to last several more days.
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