Thieves spent money at luxury superstore Harrods buying celebratory champagne after a series of raids targeted the homes of the rich and famous, a court has heard.
The gang burgled footballer Frank Lampard’s home in Chelsea, Socialite Tamara Ecceltone’s £70 million mansion near Kensington Palace, and the Knightsbridge home of the late Leicester City chairman, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
After a £1 million raid on Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home, the gang bought champagne from Harrods, which is also in the Knightsbridge area of central London, the court was told.
It was also alleged that shopping sprees to Harrods were used to launder stolen cash.
“The plan, quite simply, was to steal as much as possible from some fantastic houses in this city of London,” said prosecutor Timothy Cray QC.
“The burglaries netted big money – in round figures £26 million-worth of property was stolen, mainly in some fabulous jewellery and in cold, hard cash.”
Mr Lampard’s home was the first to be attacked. Police came within seconds of catching them and one alleged burglar cut his hand while escaping, jurors heard.
When the gang entered Ms Ecceltone’s home they escaped with goods worth £25 million, Isleworth crown court in west London was told.
Mr Cray said the gang beat a CCTV system and security guards to enter her mansion.
“It looks like the house is just so big the guards didn’t realise there were burglars in and a burglary going on until it was well under way. (The guard) goes to investigate and comes running back in to make a phone call to the other guard, who had popped out to Tesco to pick up groceries.
“The other security guard drops the trolley and drives a Range Rover through London at high speeds.”
Defence barrister Leonard Smith QC said the burglary was “one of the largest ever in this country”. He also suggested that the security alarm had been “conveniently deactivated”.
Alexandru Stan, 49, and Sorin Marcovici, 53, both of London, Maria Mester, 47, from Italy, and her son, Emil Bogdan Savastru, 30, who lives in London, are accused of being the London-based support crew for alleged burglars from Milan. They deny conspiracy to burgle.
Mester and Savastru also deny conspiracy to commit money laundering. The trial continues.