Fake prince stole gems worth pounds 2m

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The Independent Online
A STUDENT who posed as the brother of the Sultan of Brunei to lure gem dealers to London before robbing them of jewellery worth pounds 2m was jailed yesterday.

In an elaborate hoax, Khawar Zaman, 25, and a group of friends told one of the world's most exclusive jewellers, based in Beverly Hills, California, that Prince Abdullah needed the jewels for a wedding

Posing as the prince, Zaman hired an ex-SAS bodyguard and a fleet of limousines before making off with the brooches, watches and necklaces. Most of the jewels have not been recovered.

Yesterday Kingston Crown Court was told that Zaman and his accomplices had hatched a plan to steal jewels from up-market dealers from around the world. Extensive and detailed plans were drawn up to entice the dealers to London on the pretext of sales.

One of the jewellers targeted was Bijan, based in the Los Angeles suburb of Beverly Hills. Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, for the prosecution, said the firm was used to sending representatives flying around the world with expensive jewels.

"The manager of the New York office received a call and was informed the caller was Prince Mohamed Abdullah ringing from Brunei," she said.

"He said a member of the household was getting married and the prince needed a number of watches and other pieces to be brought to London. They were to be set with stones."

Zaman, again posing as the prince, phoned the store once more and said he was ringing from a satellite phone on board his jet heading for London. In reality he was ringing from a mobile phone he had hired from Woolworths.

A private jet, paid for on a stolen credit card, was used to fly the Bijan representatives to Luton airport, where they were greeted with a bouquet of flowers and a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce and taken to a West End hotel.

The next day, Zaman arrived at the meeting place in a convoy of Mercedes cars and a Rolls-Royce. Sending his bodyguard to gather the jewels, Zaman then drove off before disappearing with them.

Zaman, from Crumpsall, Manchester, admitted conspiring to steal. He was jailed for one year.

Mohamed Awan, 27, from Cheetham, Manchester, admitted conspiracy to steal and two counts of obtaining property by deception.

Omar Ayub, 24, from Cheetham, Manchester, admitted assisting in the retention of stolen goods, and Saquib Mumtaz, also from Manchester, admitted two counts of conspiring to steal and two of obtaining property by deception.

All four men were picked up by police in December 1997 after they were linked to the scam by voice analysis of the jeweller's tapes, mobile phone records, admissions by Mumtaz and the identification of Zaman as the bogus prince.

Awan and Mumtaz were jailed for three-and-a-half years. Ayub was given a conditional discharge for transporting the stolen property.