Five diamond thieves arrested at Hong Kong gem fair

A vendor prepares a jewellery display for the opening of the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem fair at the convention and exhibition Centre on Sept 17, 2014. Five would-be diamond thieves have been arrested this week for trying to steal gems worth US$
A vendor prepares a jewellery display for the opening of the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem fair at the convention and exhibition Centre on Sept 17, 2014. Five would-be diamond thieves have been arrested this week for trying to steal gems worth US$880,000 (S$1.1 million) at a jewellery fair in Hong Kong, police said Thursday. -- PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Five would-be diamond thieves have been arrested this week for trying to steal gems worth US$880,000 (S$1.1 million) at a jewellery fair in Hong Kong, police said Thursday.

The spate of attempted thefts at the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair, which opened Monday, may have been the work of a gang from mainland China, local media reported.

The latest arrest on Wednesday happened when a 41-year-old man posing as a buyer tried to switch a five-carat stone worth HK$3 million (S$490,000) with a fake, the South China Morning Post reported.

When he was challenged by a staff member, he dropped the real diamond and was arrested by police, the paper said.

"All the arrested persons were from the mainland although we still don't know whether they were working together," a police spokeswoman told AFP.

Another police source, quoted by the Post, said police were looking into whether the men where from the same gang.

"We believe they are trained to commit such crimes before coming to Hong Kong to steal," the paper quoted a police officer as saying.

"They usually work in a group of three or four, including lookouts and others who distract staff while the thieves strike." The fair is currently taking place at two locations in Hong Kong with 3,600 exhibitors from 48 countries, according to the event website.