Everything happened in a jiffy. The fake gemologist, a jewelery appraiser, was depositing the diamond, which was kept in a chest, in a safe. But before closing it, he asked to check the stone’s security seal for a second. He did so and went out to phone the supposed buyer and thus close the purchase. Seeing that he was late in coming back, nervous, the owner asked to check the safe. Opening it, he found that the tiny chest was still there, but empty. The purple diamond, a unique type of gemstone, 3.2 carats, valued in a range of between 7 and 15 million euros, had faded. And with him, the appraiser and the buyer.
One of the robberies of the century in Barcelona occurred on January 2, 2020, at the headquarters of an intermediary company on Calle de Muntaner that was also scammed. A diamond fancy, or with color, it is very difficult to find in the market. “Natural diamonds are transparent, or yellow. And a very low percentage have color, ”explains Marta Camps, the jewelry specialist at the auction house Balclis in Barcelona. Note that the color is due to different factors, such as natural radiation, temperature or pressure. “Since there are so few, they are highly sought after,” he explains. And that is why it is not surprising that transactions are made through intermediaries who find the buyer of such exotic pieces and put them in contact with the seller. “In Barcelona, maybe there is a jewelry store that has a fancy, but it is not usual ”, he clarifies. And he adds that it is recommended to “certify” them: “If they come from the earth with this color, they have that astronomical value.”
The problem in this case is that the alleged intermediaries were not stone-cutters or diamond experts. They were a clan of scammers, a family made up of at least nine people, according to Mossos inspector Israel García, deputy head of investigation in Barcelona.
The case came to the hands of the Catalan police on the same day as the robbery, when the owner of the diamond, a Swiss businessman who arrived at Barcelona airport with his diamond and a private escort service, found that he had been the victim of a fraud scam. film. “In the box they left, we found a footprint,” explains the inspector. And with it something jumped in the police system: its owner, eight years earlier, was known to the Mossos because he was dedicated to stealing in the Barcelona metro.
With the images and data, and visiting the different luxury hotels where they had previous meetings before the day of the robbery – such as the Mandarin, the Hesperia or the Palace – they verified that the supposed gemstone expert and the subway thief Barcelona were a couple. “At that time, they had completely changed. They pretended to be people with purchasing power. If necessary, they rented a Mercedes to be dropped off at the hotel door ”, explains García. Designer clothes, luxury mobiles … Everything to make his victims believe that he was buyers, intermediaries, diamond experts. When in reality they were a professional family of scammers, they had climbed the crime pyramid.
The Mossos, and the National Police, which was also on the trail of the scammers, notified France in June. There the clan lived. And they started a joint operation. But they were not in time to prevent another great blow. On this occasion, they chose the exclusive city of Cannes, known for its film festival, and the legendary five-star hotel Martínez. A woman, presumably the expert gemologist from Barcelona, entangled another wealthy Swiss. His diamond was not fancyIt was a traditional 111-carat diamond, valued at 4.5 million euros. Again, by art of birlibirloque, they made it disappear, and they disappeared.
It happened in August. Before, they are also accused of defrauding a car collector, again Swiss. Leading him to believe that they were going to buy vehicles, they stole 180,000 euros. In October, the Police also monitored a trip to Valencia, in which they finally did not act.
In November, the French police arrested three women and six men, between 26 and 53 years old, all relatives among them, of Romanian, French and Serbian nationalities, accused of association of criminals to prepare crimes, organized robbery and fraud, according to judicial sources. Eight are still in prison and looking for a tenth implicated.
They also go after diamonds, which have not appeared. “We suspect they wanted to sell them in Dubai,” Inspector Garcia says. But they were unable to travel because of the pandemic. In the three searches in France, they found a pink suitcase just like the one they used in the Cannes robbery, two jewelery certificates, fake bills, 10,000 euros and a USB with access to a cryptocurrency wallet. But they found no trace of the precious stones.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.