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Daily Archives: January 11, 2008

Jewellery fair heist




by Natalie LeungYesterday's grand opening of Macau's first international jewellery and watch fair on the Cotai Strip was invaded by two purported buyers who allegedly swapped a genuine three-carat diamond with a replica. 



The stall holder soon realised the switch and called the Judiciary Police who arrested the pair.

Meanwhile, the PJ also arrested two other men in Nape three hours after the first incident who allegedly pawned a purported genuine diamond of four carats for HK$130,000.

The first incident reportedly occurred at 2pm yesterday during the Macau Jewellery & Watch Fair being held at a convention and exhibition centre on the Cotai Strip.

According to police spokesman Chan Kin Hong, two men from China's Hunan province registered at the admission counter as buyers and then approached one of the exhibition booths set up by a Hong Kong diamond retailer.

The pair then asked the stall holder to present one three-carat and one four-carat diamonds for inspection, but soon returned them and left the booth.

After awhile, Mr Chan said the two men came back to the booth and asked to inspect only the three-carat diamond which worth about HK$470,000.

Once again the pair only spent several minutes there before returning the diamond and leaving the booth. However, it was during the second inspection that the three-carat genuine diamond was swapped, police added.

The stall holder noticed the difference of the diamond within a minute after the purported buyers left the booth, and thus immediately called the security guards who then captured the two mainland suspects on the spot.

The PJ recovered the genuine diamond after a body search but also five other fakes from one of the men's pockets.

As well, Mr Chan said one more replica was found on the venue floor which police believed was abandoned by the suspects during the pursuit.

The suspects were 38-year-old Ho and 43-year-old Lei who both arrived in Macau via the Border Gate the day before the fair opened yesterday.

The PJ believed that the mainlanders came to Macau for the international trade fair.

According to police, the replicas were of very high quality and only professionals or experts could identify the difference between them and the genuine ones. 

The suspects refused to reveal the source of the counterfeit diamonds, Mr Chan said, adding that some of them were made to be eight to 10 carats.

As most of the exhibits being displayed at the fair are raw diamonds and have not yet been polished, Mr Chan said no laser trademark could be found on the products.

The two suspects will be sent to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) today and charged with aggravated theft.

On the other hand, the second incident was reported by a pawnshop keeper in Nape at 5pm.

He told police two men came to pawn a purported genuine diamond weighing four carats which was then sold at HK$130,000.

The value of the diamond, if real, could not yet be estimated, however, police said a high quality one-carat diamond could worth more than hundred thousands Hong Kong dollars.

Mr Chan said the pawnshop keeper re-inspected the diamond after the men left and soon found its authenticity was of suspicious.

The suspects were caught by the staff member and transferred to the PJ.

Police retrieved the lump sum from a body search, and one more fake diamond and diamond bangle were seized.

The two men were 44-year-old Chan and 42-year-old Ho who Mr Chan said also travelled to Macau from China's Hunan province via the Border Gate on Wednesday.

Although the pair insisted that they did not know the two men arrested at the jewellery fair on the same day, Mr Chan said the PJ would not eliminate the possibility that the two groups of mainlanders were accomplices.

Experts would examine the replicas seized from the two incidents and determine if they were of the same type, Mr Chan added.

The two men will also be sent to the MP today and charged with fraud.


Steps underway for Colombian hostage release

Colombian Peace commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo said Wednesday that steps were underway for the release of two high-profile hostages held by Marxist rebels, saying Bogota had accepted proposed arrangements by Venezuela."We have moved forward with some procedural details in how this humanitarian action should be carried forward," said Restrepo, referring to Venezuela's mediating role in securing the possible release of Clara Rojas and former lawmaker Consuelo Gonzalez de Perdomo.Rojas was managing the presidential campaign of Franco-Colombian Ingrid Bentancourt when rebels captured the two women in February 2002. Gonzalez was captured in 2001."There is a good spirit of collaboration between the two countries and we are now making progress on operational steps that will permit — with the greatest speed — the liberation" of the two women, Restrepo said in a statement read from the office of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) personnel transported aboard Venezuelan aircraft will be in charge of receiving the two hostages, Restrepo said.Colombia is "offering all the guarantees" so that the hostage release "can be accomplished in the most successful manner," Restrepo said.The announcement came after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said in Caracas that he had received the coordinates deep in Colombia for a site at which the guerrillas would release the two hostages."Hopefully first thing (Thursday) the Venezuelan helicopters … could fly," said Chavez, speaking in Caracas.Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos later Wednesday said two helicopters would take off from Venezuela at 6:30 am (1100 GMT) Thursday and head to "a fairly large area" in Colombia where the hostages are expected to be released."We haven't received a flight plan yet, but as soon as we do we'll authorize it," Santos said after meeting with ICRC's Colombia mission chief Barbara Hintermann who will provide the precise pickup details either late Wednesday or early Thursday.Santos also said he ordered a halt to all military operations in the release area.Rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) said in December that they would turn the two hostages over to Chavez by year's end. Rojas' three year-old son Emmanuel, born of an allegedly consensual liaison with a guerrilla fighter, was also to be released.Endorsed by the ICRC and monitored by foreign observers, the complex operation, that included sending Venezuelan helicopters to a secret location, failed in late December because the rebels never provided the coordinates.Colombia also said the release failed because Rojas' son was not in rebel hands but at a state-run orphanage in Bogota — a fact the guerrillas eventually acknowledged.A DNA test run in late December showing strong similarities between the boy and Rojas relatives. A second DNA test, carried out in Spain, yielded similar results, local media reported Wedneday.Chavez mentioned the helicopters flying to Guaviare, a province in south-central Colombia. He also said that ICRC members would be aboard the flights."The boy Emmanuel is already in Bogota, thank God," Chavez added.

Colombia has been seeking to swap some 500 imprisoned guerrillas for more than 40 high-profile hostages held by FARC, including Betancourt, three US contractors, and several Colombian legislators, mayors, governors and military officers.