Jewellery showcase hit by a sixth theft

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 September, 2014, 4:05am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 September, 2014, 4:05am

A thief eluded heavy security and stole a 4.8-carat diamond worth about HK$800,000 by swapping it with a fake in the sixth theft so far at this year's Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair.

Police said CCTV cameras yesterday captured a thin, short-haired Chinese-looking man aged between 30 and 40 and 1.7 metres tall who appeared to swap the real diamond with a fake after asking to see the merchandise. He was wearing a blue checked shirt and jeans.

It was the first such incident to hit the Convention and Exhibition Centre at its Wan Chai venue since the fair began on Monday.

The earlier thefts happened at the fair's other location, AsiaWorld-Expo in Lantau, and involved jewels worth a total of HK$6.9 million. At least five people have been arrested so far in those cases, all from Hunan province.

"The employee noticed a fake diamond while doing a stock take at about 12.30pm," a police officer said. "After checking, she found the 4.8-carat diamond had gone missing."

Officers pored over CCTV footage to identify a suspect.

"CCTV footage showed the man visited the booth shortly before 11am," the officer said. "He asked to see some diamonds but left soon afterwards. We believe he switched one of the diamonds with a fake one."

Officers mounted a search inside and outside the Convention and Exhibition Centre, but no arrest was made. Wan Chai detectives are investigating.

Plainclothes police officers have been deployed and more than 10 surveillance cameras have been set up at the two venues staging the week-long jewellery show.

Also in attendance during the week-long gem show are private security guards hired by the organiser of the show and the exhibitors, according to a senior police officer.

The AsiaWorld-Expo has been showcasing the raw materials of jewellery-making, equipment and packaging, starting Monday and ending today.

The Convention and Exhibition Centre showcases finished jewellery and runs between Wednesday and Sunday.

This year's event features nearly 3,700 exhibitors from 49 countries and regions. Organiser UBM Asia said it expected more than 52,000 buyers from around the world to attend.

The annual fair is no stranger to crime. In 2010, exhibits worth US$1 million were stolen in four cases, all on the first day of the fair. In 2006, police said more than 100 jewel thieves from South America arrived for the show.