A conwoman accused of posing as a gem expert to swap £4.2 million worth diamonds for pebbles was caught on CCTV examining the jeweller’s shop the day before, a court heard.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, allegedly posed as gemmologist, ‘Anna’, sent to value the precious stones held at luxury Mayfair jeweller Boodles on behalf of a group posing as wealthy Russian buyers.
Boodles boss Nicholas Wainwright had agreed the sale of seven expensive diamonds following a lunch meeting at Monaco’s Hotel Metropole.
Just one of the gems, a heart-shaped diamond, was worth £2,215,138.
At the Old Bailey in London, jurors today watched as CCTV footage of the woman alleged to be Lakatos checking into the Cricklewood Lodge Hotel on March 9, 2016, the day before the heist.
The same woman got into a grey Citroen car late in the evening with two men, Mickael Jovanovic and Christophe Stankovic, who both earlier admitted conspiracy to steal.
The grey Citroen then was caught on CCTV stopping opposite Boodles, before returning to Cricklewood and dropping ‘Anna’ off at the hotel.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, was charged with conspiracy to steal over the 2016 theft from the family-owned luxury jeweller (pictured) in Mayfair after she was extradited from France last year
Cricklewood Lodge Hotel manager Anu Grewal said: ‘As soon as I was given the description, two women leapt to my mind.
‘The first woman was in her fifties, of a larger build, and looked Eastern European. The impression she gave as she chatted is she could understand English, but not speak it.’
Lakatos, who was born in Romania but lived in France, denies conspiracy to steal on or before March 10, 2016.
In a statement read in court, Mr Wainwright told how he was approached by an Israeli, ‘Simon Glas’ in the weeks before the theft who wanted to buy high value diamonds as an investment.
The sale of seven high value diamonds was agreed following a meeting in Monaco, where Mr Wainwright was introduced to Glas’s business partner, a Russian called ‘Alexander’.
The gems, worth a total of £4.2million, included a 20 carat heart-shaped diamond valued at more than £2.2 million and a £1.1 million three carat pear-shaped fancy pink diamond.
Lakatos was allegedly the woman who posed as ‘Anna’ sent to Boodles to examine the stones on March 10, 2016.
Mr Wainwright said he took her down the spiral glass staircase into the basement meeting room along with his own gemmologist Emma Barton.
The court heard Lakatos examined and weighed the diamonds before individually wrapping them in pre-cut tissue paper and placing them inside opaque boxes, which were put into a zippable purse-like bag that was padlocked shut.
Boodles chairman Nicholas Wainwright (above) watched as ‘Anna’ examined the stones but even he could not prevent her using sleight of hand to swap the jewels for an identical bag of pebbles, a court has heard
But when the bag was opened after Boodles’ own diamond expert became suspicious, inside were seven small pebbles.
‘The diamonds had been stolen by the defendant by sleight of hand,’ said prosecutor Philip Stott.
‘The conspiracy in which she is alleged to have played an integral and central part was one of the highest possible sophistication, planning, risk, and reward.’
Professional gemologist Emma Barton told the court: ‘She came in wearing a camel coat.
‘When she took it off, she was wearing a very low cut black dress. She was wearing a hat very low down, so I couldn’t see her forehead, and she was wearing a pair of glasses with thick arms.
‘She didn’t use a loupe, a jeweller’s eye glass. As a first point of call, that is what you would generally do.
‘She had some gemmologist’s equipment that she brought with her, scales, an ultraviolet light, and a thermal conductivity probe.
‘She took each stone, weighed it, placed it under ultraviolet light, and used the thermal conductivity probe.
‘She didn’t know how to use her equipment very well. First of all, would never use the ultraviolet light under shop lights, you need a darkened room.
‘It did make me question the qualifications that “Anna” had.’
Lakatos is alleged to have been part of an international group of criminals who pretended to be diamond buyers in a scheme likened by police to a film plot. (File photo)
But Ms Barton said ‘Anna’ put the locked purse into her own handbag when her boss went upstairs to take a call from the Russian buyer, ‘Alexander’.
‘She watched Nicholas walk up the stairs and as soon as his back was turned on the spiral staircase, she grabbed the bag and stuck it in her handbag,’ she told the jury.
‘I said, ‘no, no, no,’ you can’t do that. Please take the diamonds out of your handbag now. I have to be able to see the diamonds at all times.
‘In English, she replied, “It’s ok, don’t worry, there’s nothing to worry about”.’
The court heard the locked purse was in her handbag for a matter of two or three seconds before it was put back on the table before being put in the shop’s safe.
‘However, it seems what happened was it was swapped for an identical locked bag and that duplicate bag was placed back on the table,’ said Mr Stott.
Ms Barton said she told her boss what had happened and he searched Anna’s bag in a ‘gentlemanly’ way, finding nothing, before she left the store.
Lakatos allegedly then moved the purse containing the diamonds from her bag to the handbag of one of two unknown young women, who had been browsing in the nearby Ralph Lauren and Cartier stores.
Mr Stott said Lakatos, from the Saint Brieuc region of France, changed her clothes in a pub toilet, assisted by another accomplice, Georgeta Danila, before the pair left London on the Eurostar.
Source: Daily Mail