Gang admits stealing gems worth HK$3m

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am

Three women and two men from the Philippines yesterday admitted stealing HK$3 million worth of diamond jewellery at two exhibitions in Hong Kong last year.

The five, who were recruited by a syndicate of thieves in Manila, were paid between HK$3,000 and HK$25,000 for their roles in stealing an 18.2 carat diamond, worth HK$2.7 million, and a HK$1 million necklace which was studded with a total of 32.8 carats of diamonds from two jewellery fairs held at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in June and September last year.

Arlene Jover Jumuad, 45, Elizabeth Ramirez, 42, Ayrine Dinacruz Esbocia, 44, Alejandro Sarmiento Basa, 50, and Benito Suarez, 71, all pleaded guilty to 12 charges involving conspiracy to steal, making false representation to the Immigration Department, and breach of deportation orders.

Public prosecutor Bobby Cheung Man-kwan said during each theft, some of the defendants acted as lookouts or distracted the salesman, while others stole the jewellery. The gems belonged to Iris-Babayoff Diamond, an Israeli company, and American firm Eric Originals & Antiques. Cheung said that after they escaped with the jewellery, they returned to the Philippines to hand over the haul for cash.

The two pieces of jewellery could not be recovered, the court heard.

Four of the defendants were arrested in November when they tried to enter Hong Kong, and some of them admitted that they came to steal from the next jewellery fair.

Another was arrested when he tried to leave Hong Kong.

The court heard that Jumuad, Basa and Suarez had previously been deported to the Philippines, but used forged documents to re-enter Hong Kong.

Deputy District Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on said the case was serious because the defendants came to Hong Kong solely for the purpose of stealing. He said the fairs attracted many criminals from all over the world.

Due to the prevalence of such crimes, Kwok asked the prosecution to prepare statistics detailing the sentences for similar cases and the origins of the offenders in the past 10 years for him to consider an appropriate penalty.

Sentencing was adjourned to March 30, pending a medical report on Jumuad.