A woman accused of swapping diamonds for pebbles in a £4.2 million heist has told a jury the thief was her sister.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, said Liliana Lakatos confessed months before she died in a car accident that she had posed as gem expert “Anna” to steal from luxury Mayfair jeweller Boodles.
Anna was sent to examine seven expensive diamonds for a group posing as wealthy Russian buyers following a lunch meeting at Monaco’s Hotel Metropole with Boodles boss Nicholas Wainwright.
The gems were to be placed in a padlocked purse and held in the jewellers’ vault until funds were transferred, but CCTV footage from the family firm’s New Bond Street basement showroom captured the moment the purse was put into Anna’s handbag and switched for a duplicate, while Mr Wainwright was on the phone to Russian buyer “Alexander”.
The new bag was opened after Boodles diamond expert Emma Barton became suspicious, and inside were seven small garden pebbles.
Prosecutors claim that fake gemologist Anna was Lulu Lakatos, who denies conspiracy to steal on or before March 10 2016.
She is standing trial at Southwark Crown Court.
On Thursday, Lakatos was asked by her barrister Ioana Nedelcu: “From the CCTV we watched yesterday, are you able to assist the jury with who is the person who is called Anna throughout these proceedings?”
“This is my sister, Liliana Lakatos,” she replied.
Giving evidence through a French interpreter, Romanian-born Lakatos said her younger sister had lived with her in an apartment in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, but had died in a car accident, aged 49, in Romania in October 2019.
Is what is happened you have decided to take advantage of the fact your sister has passed away and sought to pin all the blame on her?Philip Stott
She said she had not been in the UK since a trip with her sister and Georgeta Danila – another woman said to have been involved in the Boodles theft – in 2012.
Lakatos told the jury her sister confessed to using her passport to come to the country to commit the crime after Danila was held by police months before Liliana’s death
“When her friend Georgeta Danila has been stopped, this is when she confessed about the passport and everything else,” Lakatos told the court.
“At first I was angry and she promised she will do everything to sort it out.”
The court heard that Ms Barton picked out Liliana Lakatos, who had a string of convictions for theft and was wanted in Switzerland for theft and fraud, as the person who stole the diamonds in an identification procedure.
Finger marks left on the glass table in the Boodles showroom could not be matched to Lulu Lakatos’s prints, while a mixed DNA profile was recovered from the pebbles which could not exclude either sister, jurors were told.
If my sister were alive, she would be standing hereLulu Lakatos
Prosecutor Philip Stott told jurors that an expert said the findings provide “very strong support” for the theory that some of the DNA originated from Lulu Lakatos.
He suggested: “Is what is happened you have decided to take advantage of the fact your sister has passed away and sought to pin all the blame on her? That’s what you have done, haven’t you?”
Lakatos replied: “No, not at all sir. If my sister were alive, she would be standing here.”
The court heard she has three previous convictions for theft in France up to 2006 but she said she had changed her ways, finding work in schools, canteens and as a cleaner.
She is alleged to have switched the diamonds to the handbag of one of two unknown young women before leaving London for France on the Eurostar with Danila.
Jurors have heard that two men, Christophe Stankovic and Mickael Jovanovic – who have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal over the theft – made their getaway, with the two younger women, in a rented car through the Channel Tunnel.
The trial continues on Friday.