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Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Diamond thief must pay back £244 after record £4.2m heist | UK news

A woman who stole £4.2m worth of diamonds by swapping them for pebbles has been ordered to pay back less than £250.

Mugshot of a woman with grey hair and wearing black
Lulu Lakatos, in a photo issued by the Metropolitan police.

Lulu Lakatos, 60, is serving a five-and-a-half year jail sentence after she was found guilty of conspiracy to steal in 2021.

Southwark crown court heard she posed as “Anna”, a gem expert, in order to steal seven stones from the Mayfair jewellers Boodles, after being sent to value them on behalf of supposed wealthy buyers.

The diamonds were to be placed in a padlocked purse and held in the store’s vault until funds were transferred.

CCTV footage from the firm’s basement showed the moment the purse was put into Lakatos’s handbag and switched for a duplicate by an accomplice in 2016.

Less than three hours after the switch, Lakatos and her accomplices fled the UK for France.

When the purse in the Boodles safe was opened the following day, inside were seven small garden pebbles. The real diamonds have never been recovered.

A proceeds of crime hearing on Friday was told Romanian-born Lakatos, from Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, is expected to be extradited back to France.

Image from CCTV grab of Lulu Lakatos inside Boodles jewellers.
Image from CCTV grab of Lulu Lakatos inside Boodles jewellers. Photograph: Metropolitan Police/PA

Judge Alexander Milne QC said: “As far as the figures are concerned, there is a striking contrast between the benefit figure of £4,299,671 and the available assets of €293.57[£244].”

Since the money has already been seized, he set a one-day default sentence with a month to pay.

Christophe Stankovic and Mickael Jovanovic, who were involved in the plot, were jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal.

Prosecutors said it was the highest-value theft of its kind ever committed in the UK.

Lakatos was wanted in Switzerland for an almost identical plot, where an envelope containing €400,000 was switched for a duplicate filled with paper.

Lakatos has three previous convictions for theft in France. She arrived in London the day before the theft and was seen on CCTV with Georgeta Danila, 53, entering the Cricklewood Lodge hotel in London, before making a reconnaissance trip to Boodles with Stankovic and Jovanovic. Danila was acquitted after telling a jury she had no idea she had been involved in the crime.

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