Sunday, 25 Jul 2021

Mayfair jeweller theft: woman swaps diamond for pebbles at stars’ favourite store

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Lulu Lakatos is alleged to have switched a locked bag of pricey gems for a lookalike container of seven stones before leaving the country hours later.

One of the jewels, a heart-shaped diamond, was worth £2,215,138, jurors heard.

Lakatos pretended to be a gemologist named Anna, hired by Russian businessmen seeking to buy precious stones from Boodles, the court heard.

The London store is popular with celebrities including fashion designer Victoria Beckham and TV host Holly Willoughby.

It was alleged that after examining the gemstones, Lakatos put each one in an opaque box inside a zip-up bag, which was then padlocked.

Philip Stott, prosecuting, said: “When the funds failed to materialise from the buyers, the bag was opened. Inside were, instead of the diamonds, seven small pebbles. The diamonds had been stolen by the defendant using sleight of hand.”

Staff at the flagship store in New Bond Street had their suspicions about “Anna”, he said. “Boodles sent the padlocked bag to Heathrow to be X-rayed. The scan revealed the presence of objects similar in size to diamonds but something did not appear quite right “Boodles staff opened the bag. Inside each of the opaque boxes was a small pebble.”

Romanian-born Lakatos, 60, of Brittany, France, denies conspiracy to steal in 2016. Mickael Jovanovic and Christophe Stankovic have admitted the same charge, the jury was told.

Nicholas Wainwright, Boodles chairman, was tricked into believing the “Russians” were tycoons, Mr Stott said: “Arrangements were made for the defendant, posing as a gemologist — a valuer of gems, to attend at the vendor’s London showroom.”

He said “Anna” and Mr Wainwright were joined by Emma Barton, Boodles’ gemologist. “The defendant purported to examine and weigh each of the seven diamonds in turn.

“The defendant wrapped each diamond in pre-cut tissue paper and placed them inside opaque boxes she had brought. Those boxes were then placed into a zippable purse-like bag, which was then padlocked shut.”

Mr Wainwright was called away to take a phone call from Alexander — one of the “Russians”.

Mr Stott said: “When he did so, the defendant placed the locked bag inside her handbag.

“Emma Barton told ‘Anna’ she couldn’t do that and told her to put it back.

“The woman looked confused and did as she was told. It seems that a locked duplicate bag was placed back on the table.” Ms Barton told Mr Wainwright and he checked the handbag, finding it “relatively empty”, said Mr Stott.

The padlocked bag was put in Boodles’ safe and “Anna” left.

“All the thieves were out of the country within three hours,” Mr Stott added.

Lakatos was later arrested in France and extradited in December.

The trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court continues.

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