Diamond Thieves Pull off Daring Daylight Heist

In and out in 60 Seconds, Police Say

Diamond Heist

In a daring daylight heist, two thieves posing as construction workers absconded with about 10 million Hong Kong dollars worth of diamonds (worth about 1.29 million in US dollars).

The robbery occurred at a store called the Diamond Collection located in Tsim Sha Tsui, an urban area in southern Kowloon, Hong Kong.

The two gutsy robbers – who reportedly spoke the Cantonese dialect of Chinese – entered the store at about 11:30 in the morning on October 11, but did not draw any attention from passersby as they entered the store.  According to a witness, they were wearing yellow construction helmets, safety vests, face masks and gloves, making it appear as if they were working at a nearby construction area.

After they entered the store, one of the two robbers, who was carrying a red bucket of kerosene, tossed the flammable liquid  on three of the six employees who were in the store.  He then began to pry open a showcase with a crowbar.  At the same time, the other robber pulled out a pistol, demanding that a second showcase be opened.

The two thieves were able to grab about 10 million Hong Kong dollars worth of diamonds in a daring heist that took under a minute.

According to Lisa Mao Lee-sha of the Kowloon West regional crime unit, they pair made off with altogether 150 diamonds of varying sizes.  The biggest, however, was ten carats.  A ten carat diamond is about 14 mm across and generally retails somewhere in the $200,000-250,000 US dollar range, depending on cut, color and clarity.

A police spokesperson was quoted by the South China Morning Post as saying that the robbery was probably well-planned since it was carried out so quickly and efficiently.  They seemed to know exactly which two cases contained the most valuable merchandise and went directly to those, he said.  He also noted that they probably targeted diamonds in the robbery because it is easy to find buyers on the black market.

Hong Kong is one of the most popular hubs for black market diamonds, according to Mark Rossini, a former FBI agent who spoke with The Wall Street Journal back in February 2013 about a larger diamond heist which occurred at a Brussels, Belgium airport.

Stolen diamonds eventually make their way back into legitimate jewelry stores, according to John Kennedy, who is president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, an organization which provides crime information for the jewelry industry.  Robbers like those in Hong Kong generally already have “fences,”  who specialize in buying and selling stolen goods, lined up before they commit a robbery.  Once the fences take possession, the diamonds go through a process similar to money laundering, where they get passed along to buyers who are less and less “dirty” until the diamonds make their way back to legitimate jewelry dealers.  Stolen diamonds are notoriously difficult to trace, so it makes this process very easy.

According to the news article, a similar robbery occurred in August at a watch outlet just 200 meters away.  In that robbery, about 6.5 million Hong Kong dollars worth of watches were stolen.  No mention was made of whether police suspect any connection between the watch thieves and the men involved in the diamond heist.

Written by:  Nancy Schimelpfening


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