According to multiple reports, six women who had posed as visitors at the Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show were being held for questioning by police in relation to the theft of diamonds valued at about HK$1.5 million (AU$247,906).
It is believed that two of the women had approached an exhibitor’s stand and asked to inspect a 3-carat diamond just over an hour after the trade show had opened on Monday 2 March. The pair allegedly swapped the HK$980,000 (AU$161,775) stone for a ‘fake’ but were caught by police when staff realised what was taking place.
Only 15 minutes later, a similar incident occurred at a different stand with two other women. The theft also involved a 3-carat diamond – valued at HK$500,000 (AU$82,548) – however, the staff did not become aware of the switch until the women had left.
While police later located and arrested the women, the stolen stone was not recovered.
Later in the afternoon, police searched another two women suspected of being involved in the string of thefts. A replica diamond was found in one suspect’s possession and the pair was also arrested.
All six women – said to be from mainland China – were reportedly questioned, but at the time of publication no charges had yet been made.
This was not the first time this year that jewellery fairs had been hit by international thieves – just two weeks ago, three men were arrested on suspicion of stealing a 5-carat diamond from the Bangkok Gems and Jewellery Fair – nor was it the first time the Hong Kong jewellery fairs had been targeted by international crime gangs.
As previously reported by Jeweller, gemstones valued at about US$975,000 (AU$1.3 million) were stolen during a number of separate incidents on the first day of the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair in 2010 – one of these thefts involved a ‘fake’ diamond swap as well.
In addition, robberies have occurred at other international jewellery fairs in the past, with one example including a man who was caught in 2012 for allegedly swallowing a diamond valued at almost US$14,000 (AU$18,171) at a gemstone and jewellery exhibition in Sri Lanka.
The Hong Kong International Diamond, Gem and Pearl Show ran from Monday 2 March to Friday 6 March as part of the AsiaWorld-Expo at Hong Kong International Airport.
Image courtesy: South China Morning Post