A conwoman allegedly stole £4.2 million of diamonds from a luxury London jewellery store by using “sleight of hand” to discreetly swap them for pebbles, a court has heard.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, has been accused of posing as a gemologist as part of an elaborate heist of seven precious stones from the Boodles store on New Bond Street in central London in 2016.
The gems included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond valued at more than £2.2 million and a three-carat pear-shaped fancy pink diamond worth £1.1 million.
In the opening day of the trial against Lakatos on Tuesday, Southwark Crown Court heard that the 60-year-old Romanian was sent under the alias “Anna” to inspect the diamonds by a group posing as wealthy Russian investors.
Lakatos was escorted to the jewellers’ basement meeting room on March 10 by Nicholas Wainwright, Boodles chairman, and Emma Barton, the firm’s own gemologist.
Mr Wainwright told the court that he thought the defendant “looked strange” and his suspicions were heightened when she failed to inspect the stones through an eyeglass, as a gemologist might do, or check their certificates.
Giving evidence to the court, Mr Wainwright said: “She was overweight, she was dressed most extraordinarily, she was wearing the sort of thing a Russian dancer would wear.
“She had enormous boobs and you could see her cleavage, it was most unattractive.”
When inside the meeting room, Lakatos purported to examine and weigh the diamonds before individually wrapping them in pre-cut tissue paper and placing them inside opaque boxes, the court heard.
The boxes were then placed in a zippable purse, which was padlocked shut, and Lakatos placed the purse inside her own handbag.
Recalling the incident to the court, Ms Barton said she told the defendant: “No, no, no, you can’t do that, please take them out of your handbag now, I have to see them at all times.
“Four million pounds worth of diamonds had been out of my sight,” she added.
Lakatos told Ms Barton that there was “nothing to worry about" before retrieving the locked purse from her handbag and placing it back on the table.
“But, unseen by Emma Barton, it seems what happened was it was swapped for an identical locked bag and that duplicate bag was placed back on the table,” Philip Stott, prosecuting, told the jury.
Credit: Eddie Mulholland for The Telegraph
Ms Barton informed Mr Wainwright, pictured above, what had happened and, as a precaution, he asked the defendant if he could look into her handbag.
“I thought: ‘Why on earth would she put them in her bag?’,” Mr Wainwright told the court, adding: “I had a look in her bag for about three seconds but couldn’t see anything.”
The duplicate purse-like bag was then placed inside the shop’s safe and the defendant walked out of the store at 12.05pm.
But the following day, after money for the diamonds failed to arrive from the Russian investors, Boodles sent the padlocked bag to be X-rayed and inside each of the opaque boxes was a small pebble instead of a diamond, the court heard.
“The diamonds had been stolen by the defendant by sleight of hand,” Mr Stott told the court.
“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.”
Lakatos, who was born in Romania but lived in France, denies conspiracy to steal.
The trial, which is set to last three days, continues.