A woman stole diamonds worth $5.72 million from jewellers by swapping them with pebbles using “sleight of hand”, a court has heard.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, allegedly posed as a gemologist who examined the stones from Boodles in central London.
Ms Lakatos valued seven diamonds at the New Bond Street store before placing them into a bag, a jury was told.
But when the bag was opened, inside were seven small pebbles, Southwark Crown Court heard.
“The diamonds had been stolen by the defendant by sleight of hand,” prosecutor Philip Stott said.
“The conspiracy in which she is alleged to have played an integral and central part was one of the highest possible sophistication, planning, risk, and reward.”
The gems, worth a total of $5.72 million, included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond and a three-carat pear-shaped fancy pink diamond.
Mr Stott said Ms Lakatos purported to examine and weigh each of the seven diamonds before individually wrapping them in pre-cut tissue paper and placing them inside opaque boxes.
“When the examination was complete, the boxes were placed into a zippable purse-like bag, which was then padlocked shut,” he told the jury.
The prosecutor said Ms Lakatos placed the locked bag inside her own handbag when Mr Wainwright went upstairs.
“It seems it was swapped for an identical locked bag,” Mr Stott said.
Mr Stott said Ms Lakatos discarded her hat and scarf and changed her clothes in a pub toilet, switching her dark coat for a light one, assisted by another accomplice.
She then used her own passport to leave London on the Eurostar, the court heard.
Ms Lakatos was arrested in France on a European Arrest Warrant in September last year before being extradited to the UK.