Four face jail over huge gem heist in Britain

6th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Four men were facing jail Tuesday after being convicted of taking part in a brazen raid on a jewellery store in London which netted gems worth 40 million pounds (60 million dollars, 48 million euros).

Police welcomed the convictions but appealed for help in finding a motorcyclist who made off with the jewels, which have yet to be recovered.

Solomun Beyene, 25, of central London, and Clinton Mogg, 43, of Bournemouth on the southern English coast, were found guilty Tuesday of conspiracy to rob by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court in London.

Two of their co-conspirators had earlier been convicted over the heist at Graff Diamonds in the upmarket London district of Mayfair last August, one of the biggest such robberies in Britain.

Aman Kassaye, 25, was convicted of kidnap, conspiracy to rob and possession of a firearm after forcing a shop assistant to pack up the jewels at gunpoint, while 46-year-old Thomas Thomas was found guilty of conspiracy to rob.

During the trial, the court was shown footage of Kassaye firing a shot in the street outside the shop, sending passers-by running for cover. He had pleaded innocent, saying it was a case of mistaken identity.

Beyene's role was to buy telephones and hire a van to use as a blocking vehicle in the raid, while Mogg provided the London address where an innocent make-up artist disguised Kassaye's appearance.

Two further suspects were cleared in May and another two were found not guilty last week. The jury could not reach a verdict on a final suspect, Craig Calderwood, 27, and he could face a re-trial.

Detective Chief Inspector Pam Mace welcomed the successful outcome of the investigation but said: "We continue to appeal for information to trace the motorbike rider, and the whereabouts of the jewellery."

The 43 items snatched in the raid were handed in a black plastic bag to an accomplice on a motorbike, who sped off. Although he had to abandon the bike nearby after it broke down, police lost track of him.

Graff, which is known for its diamonds and celebrity clientele including Kylie Minogue, Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham, was also targeted in 2003 in a robbery worth 23 million pounds.

© 2010 AFP

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