Four held over $1.4m diamond heist

The gems were recovered from the Latin Americans, who were arrested at Dubai airport on their way to Hamburg from a Mumbai jewellery show.

A visitor walks past an advertising board for a diamond studded wedding ring during the India International Jewellery Show in Mumbai on August 20, 2010. The 27th edition of the four-day jewellery show features 653 Indian and 123 foreign exhibitors.  AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE

DUBAI // Three men and a woman were arrested after flying into Dubai airport yesterday after a daring diamond heist at an international jewellery show in Mumbai. Three Mexicans, one of them a woman, and a Venezuelan were arrested on suspicion of stealing diamonds worth US$1.4 million (Dh5 million) from the India International Jewellery Show on Monday.

The four being held - Guerrero Lugo Elvia Grissel, 24, Gonzalez Maldonado Mauricio, 24, Campos Molan Elias, 39, all from Mexico, and Gutierez Orlando, from Venezuela - remain in Dubai police custody. Plans are under way to arrange their extradition to India for questioning. The raiders are thought to be professional gem thieves and snatched a box containing 887.24 carats of diamonds after distracting sales staff.

The arrests followed an Interpol alert issued by Indian authorities immediately after the theft. "Three men and a woman were arrested at Dubai airport in connection with the diamond theft in Mumbai," a senior Dubai police official said. "We are now awaiting case papers from India, after which we will look into the possibility of extradition." The stolen jewels had been recovered from the group, he said. The arrests and recovery of the spoils were made within 24 hours of the heist, one of the quickest recoveries in a high-profile theft. Indian officials said they hoped the extradition process went equally smoothly.

"We have made a formal request to the Dubai police for handover of the four people to Mumbai police," said Himanshu Roy, Mumbai's joint commissioner of police for law and order. "We are now awaiting a response from Dubai. We have an extradition treaty with the UAE and we hope we can get these people soon." The four were being detained at the Dubai airport security centre, he said. The India International Jewellery Show, which opened in Mumbai on August 19 and ended on Monday, is the third-largest of its kind in the world.

"I have been told that the diamonds were recovered," said Vasant Mehta, the president of Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council, which organised the show. "The Mumbai police told me that the group has been caught. Police officers from here will be in Dubai soon." Closed-circuit television footage showed the group taking the gems from a stall belonging to the Israeli company Dalumi Group. Three men distracted the booth's attendant while a woman picked up a box of diamonds and walked towards the main exit. The group left the show without being stopped by security guards. "Our CCTV cameras captured them clearly and they could be identified," Mr Mehta said. "They were a group of swindlers who go to major international jewellery shows, distract the attendants and escape with the jewels." The theft was discovered when the box containing the stones was found to be missing. Show organisers were immediately informed and closed all gates and checked everyone present in the ground. The police were called and an official complaint was lodged. Mumbai police said the thieves drove straight to the city's international airport, which was about 20 minutes from the show venue. They are known to have taken an Emirates Airline flight for Hamburg via Dubai. Meanwhile, police officials at the Dubai airport security centre were informed of the robbery and were on the lookout for the group. An airport security official confirmed that the group was arrested immediately after they landed. Sources close to the case said yesterday that the robbers had swallowed the diamonds before boarding the flight, but this could not be confirmed by airport officials. There is recent precedent for a fugitive from Indian justice being sent back to the subcontinent. Taher Mohammed Merchant, a key suspect in the serial bomb blasts that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993, was extradited from the Emirates in June, closing a six-year process. Indian authorities requested custody of Mr Merchant in 2004 under an extradition agreement signed in 2000.