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Mumbai diamond heist solved, suspects held in Dubai

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 08:29:52 PM, IANS

Rs.6.5 crore diamond heist at international jewellery show

In a crime that seems to be straight out of a Bollywood movie, diamonds weighing 88,999 carats and worth over Rs.6.5 crore were stolen from a stall at the India International   »

Mumbai: The four jewel thieves - three Mexicans including a woman and a Venezuelan - who carried out the audacious diamond heist worth over Rs.6.6 crore from the India International Jewellery Show-2010 here and fled to Dubai after swallowing the gems were Tuesday detained by police there.

According to sources, all the stolen diamonds have been recovered but there was no official confirmation yet.

The four suspects - (Ms) Guerrero Lugo Elvia Grissel, 24, Gonzalez Maldonado Mauricio, 24, Campos Molan Elias, 39 - all Mexican nationals, and Gutierez Orlando, of Venezuela - are currently in the custody of Dubai Police which detained them early Tuesday following a request by the Indian Home Ministry.

Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil, speaking to media persons, said that the suspects, identified on the basis of CCTV footage and other records at the IIJS-2010, had swallowed the diamonds before slipping of the country on a late evening Mumbai-Dubai-Hamburg flight.

The suspects had put them in small plastic bags before swallowing them and the Dubai police made them purge out the valuables after taking them into custody, he said.

Joint Police Commissioner (Crime) Himanshu Roy said that Mumbai Police are in touch with the Central Bureau of Investigation, InterPol and other agencies, to get at the bottom of the stunning heist.

“It was a professionally executed crime and there are chances that they may have conducted a recce of the Bombay Exhibition Centre. We suspect that the stolen diamonds may have been concealed in the handbag of the woman accomplice,” Roy said.

However, other investigating agencies also suspect the possible involvement of a local hand with the guidance of some international mafia gang for the successful heist and the flight of the thieves after committing the crime.

The case was cracked and the suspects identified after studying the CCTV footage and checking records of over 1,500 visitors to the IIJS-2010 besides the records at the immigration offices at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, police said.

From Goregaon east, the venue of the expo, the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Sahar is a convenient 15-minute drive, with traffic mostly moving in the south-north direction in the evening return peak hour.

Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) president Vasant Mehta told IANS earlier that the CCTV footage clearly shows the four culprits diverting the attention of the stall attendant, picking up the box containing the diamonds estimated at over Rs.6.6 crore and walking out of the main exit virtually uninterrupted.

Police swung into action after Guy Ezekeil Vaz, the Asia sales manager with Dalumin Hongkong, a diamond company based in Hong Kong, lodged a complaint late Monday night over the theft of a box containing the diamonds, worth nearly Rs.6.6 crore.

Vaz said that sometime in the afternoon, when it was relatively lean final day of the five-day expo, some people engaged him in conversation, while a couple of their accomplices went to the company’s stall 1-E/15 in the main hall No. 1.

As he was engaged in conversation, the others managed to quietly lift the box of diamonds.

By the time he realised the theft and raised an alarm, the culprits had fled.

For more than two hours, the exhibition organisers sealed all entry-exit points but to no avail.

Although Mehta and police have named four people, Vaz's complaint was registered against the three Mexicans with the involvement of the Venezuelan national and came to the fore only Tuesday.

The robbers made good their escape with the booty bypassing several levels of security, including Mumbai Police, private security, security paraphernalia like metal detectors, electronic swiping of entry cards, CCTVs, prompting one of the organisers to point a finger at “insider help”.

The IIJS is considered the third largest international diamond and jewellery exhibition in the world, which attracted participation from 800 companies around the world, 1,900 stalls were put up and a stiff entry fee - Rs.3,600 - levied on visitors.

The diamond theft shocked both the law enforcers and the expo organizers who have claimed a spotless track record for the event since the past 27 years.




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