The Graff Diamond Heist : One Of The Most Expensive In London’s History

A few weeks ago we posted an article on a diamond heist that occurred in London, we decided to do a little digging to find out what some of the worlds largest jewelry robberies have been. Jewelry and gemstones have always held a fascination for thieves through the centuries. Jewels are not only worth monetary value, but their luster, sparkle and allure draw everyone in.  We’re intrigued by the famous jewels that have been stolen in the past and we’re here to report on it. Welcome to our new series of blog posts, appropriately titled, ‘The Great Jewel Heist”.

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The Famous Diamonds Of Graff

Criminal gangs are invariably ruthless and intent on getting away with their ill gotten gains not caring much for those who get in their way and end up hurt. Yet, there is something about the great jewel thieves that it is very hard not to admire. The meticulous planning, the imaginative ideas, and the sheer daring of the execution. But as you’ll see, rarely are they flawless, like the jewels they planned to steal.

Graff Jewelry Robbery

This week we step back just over five years to 2009, and the exclusive Graff Diamonds store in New Bond Street, London, England. Lawrence Graff has been known to collect the world’s most magnificent and expensive diamonds, often selling his goods in auction.

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The Front Of The Famous Graff Store In London

At 4.40pm on August 6th 2009, two sharply dressed men posing as customers brazenly entered the store and pulled out their guns. Over the course of the next 25 minutes they forced the shop staff to open the display cases, and made off with 43 items of jewelry worth a staggering total of $65 million. One necklace alone was estimated to be worth more than $5.25 million. It was quite clear they knew exactly what they were looking for.

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The Robbers Caught On Graff Security Camera In Heavy Makeup

The robbers made no attempt to conceal their faces from the store CCTV cameras, having taken elaborate measures to disguise their appearances. Prior to the robbery they spent over four hours with professional makeup artists, who used wigs, toners and latex prosthetic to disguise them. One of the robbers, Aman Kassaye, said at the time. “My own mother wouldn’t recognize me now”.

Grab from CCTV issued by Met Police of the Graff jewllery robbery taking place.

The Robbers Instruct Their Hostage Petra Ehnar To Step Outside

The Get Away

Outside the store the robbers fired shots in the air to create confusion, and then made their getaway in a nearby waiting BMW. They switched vehicles twice more before disappearing from trace. Petra Ehnar, an assistant in the jewelry shop was held at gunpoint during the raid in central London and, “expected the worst”, as armed robbers used her as a hostage to make their getaway. During the confusion, and panic on the street, she heard a gun being fired, she did not know if she had been shot. “I didn’t know if it was me. It felt like it was right behind me. I didn’t know which direction it had gone off.”

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The Robbers Got Away After Switching Cars Several Times

Ehnar, who had worked at Graff Diamonds in Mayfair, for only three months before the robbery, said the two suited robbers, one black, one white, began waving guns moments after entering the salon and asking to see a 2-carat ring in one of the windows. Store staff were told in no uncertain terms they would be killed if they did not comply. A very simple hold up – and let’s not forget, a brutal one. The robbers so very nearly pulled it off …

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The Robbers Passed The Stolen Goods To This Motorbike Rider

Never Leave Your Phone Behind

The fatal mistake that led to their capture was perhaps one of the most obvious and simple to avoid – in their haste to transfer between getaway cars one of the robbers left his cell phone wedged between the handbrake and drivers seat. Incredible. After all the planning and preparation, then carrying out the heist without a hitch, something as ridiculous as a mobile phone led to the whole gang being caught. Anonymous numbers stored on the phone quickly allowed police to discover the identity of the robbers.

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Ultimately The Biggest Mistake The Thieves Made Was Leaving A Cell Phone

Caught Red Handed 

Aman Kassaye, who planned and executed the heist, was found guilty of conspiracy to rob, kidnap and possession of a firearm after a three-month trial at Woolwich Crown Court. On 7 August 2010, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison. Three other men – Solomun Beyene, 25, of London, Clinton Mogg, 43, of Bournemouth, and Thomas Thomas, 46, of Kingston upon Thames – were each jailed for 16 years after also being convicted of conspiracy to rob.

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The Thieves Were Caught And Now Serve Prison Sentences

 The Stolen Gems

As of today, only one item of the 43 pieces stolen has been recovered. In 2012 a Hong Kong pawn shop submitted a 16 carat yellow diamond for certification by the Gemological Institute of America (the world’s foremost independent authority on diamonds, colored stones, and pearls). The institute turned out to have certified the diamond before the robbery and determined it was the same one, albeit re-cut.

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The Stolen Jewelry From Graff

All of the diamonds in the store had been laser-inscribed with the Graff logo, but this can be taken off just as easily, by a whiling stone cutter. Judging from the nature of this robbery, it is clear this gang was well connected. Police are convinced the jewelry would have been flown abroad to waiting customers within hours of the robbery.

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Stolen Diamonds Can Be Re-cut And Re-polished To Sell Again In The Market

“Inevitably these items are highly portable, which makes it easier for them to be transported abroad”. Detectives investigating the robbery stated: “The gang knew exactly what they were looking for and we suspect they already had a market for the jewels.” At the time the Graff diamond heist was one of the largest gems heist ever to have taken place in Britain.