It's not me, insists Scottish businesswoman after police raid house over £18m Tokyo heist

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The Independent Online

To her neighbours and customers, Dorothy Fasola is a respected businesswoman - the middle-aged director of two seafood companies.

To her neighbours and customers, Dorothy Fasola is a respected businesswoman - the middle-aged director of two seafood companies.

Mrs Fasola, 54, is well known for exporting shellfish and Scottish salmon throughout Europe. Her companies have offices in Scotland and Italy.

She also has another claim to fame - she is one of the main suspects for Japan's biggest diamond robbery, in which a total of £18m worth of gems were snatched from a jewellery boutique in Tokyo.

Among the stolen items was a £17m necklace - known as the Comtesse de Vendome - encrusted with 116 diamonds and featuring a 125-carat, oval-cut central diamond.

Last week the investigation into the heist touched the sedate world of the suburbs of Aberdeen, when Mrs Fasola's ivy-covered country house was raided by Japanese and British detectives.

Mrs Fasola says she is baffled by the inquiry, that she is an innocent party, and that the police must have got her mixed up with someone else.

Her only public statement so far, issued by her solicitors, said: "Mrs Fasola has discussed the matter with us in full. She knows nothing about a jewel robbery in Tokyo."

But police sources are adamant that this is not a case of mistaken identity and that they intended to raid Mrs Fasola's home in Aberdeen.

No gems were discovered during the joint Japanese and Grampian police operation, but detectives from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are examining computer and telephone records which were seized during the raid on Wednesday.

The robbery, which took place in Tokyo's exclusive shopping district of Ginza on 5 March, caused an outcry in the normally law-abiding city. It took place at a store called Le Supre-Diamant Couture De Maki shortly before midday.

Two women kept watch from a coffee shop outside the store while two men entered and asked in English to be shown some of the jewellery.

One of the raiders sprayed a shop assistant in the face with a pepper spray, punched him, and then smashed a glass display case with a metal hammer. As well as the necklace, up to 20 other pieces of jewellery, including a £1m diamond ring and a £600,000 pair of diamond earrings, were snatched.

The thieves fled on a motorcycle that was parked outside. At least two of the thieves appear to have been caught on store surveillance cameras. At first the Tokyo Metropolitan Police department said that they were looking for two men but later revised this and issued arrest warrants for two Serbo-Montenegrin men in their thirties, a Serbo-Montenegrin woman in her twenties and a woman in her fifties carrying a British passport. All had entered Japan on short-term visas.

The men and the Briton allegedly visited the store at least once in late February before the robbery, posing as customers.

Fingerprints left behind in the central Tokyo hotel the gang used before the robbery suggest that at least one of the men was involved in a similar jewellery heist in Switzerland five years ago.

During their stay, the gang made several phone calls to Sri Lanka, apparently in search of a fence to take the stolen gems. The Japanese police discovered that the gang, disguised as two couples, left their Tokyo hotel for Paris on forged passport and from different airports - Narita and Kansai - soon after the robbery.

The second Serbo-Montenegrin man and woman are known associates of the Serbo-Montenegrin man, which leaves the mysterious British woman, who has no obvious connections.

The hunt for her led the Japanese authorities to contact Interpol, who in turn contacted the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) in London. NCIS arranged for Japanese detectives to meet officers from Grampian police.

About a dozen officers raided Mrs Fasola's rented home, called Newton Croft House, in the Bucksburn suburb of Aberdeen. The officers only had a search warrant and did not question Mrs Fasola, who was at the property when the operation took place.

A native of Aberdeen, Mrs Fasola, whose maiden name was Shirreffs, came from a family of publicans in the city. Her late father, Alexander Shirreffs, and mother, Dorothy, ran several of the city's pubs.

Mrs Fasola, who has three sisters and a brother, married her late husband Luigi in 1975 and moved to Milan where the couple ran their own business.

However, when he died in 1985, leaving her with a two-year-old daughter, Elena, Mrs Fasola stayed in Italy for a while running her own costume jewellery business, which she advertised herself on an Italian television shopping channel.

In the 1990s Mrs Fasolo moved back to Aberdeen and started a fish import and export business. She is listed as the director of two Aberdeen based businesses and two dissolved businesses, one registered in Aberdeen and the other in London.

One Aberdeen fishmonger, who did not want to be named, said: "She exports fish to Italy and seems to make a decent living out of it. I've always found her to be nice and professional. We have never had any problems with her."

One of her companies, Maresca, exports seafood to Italy and has an annual turnover in the region of £700,000 a year. Another company is believed to be involved in the importation of frozen ready meals and Italian ice- cream.

The owner of her Aberdeen house, who has rented the premises to a series of tenants over the past decade, said he had never had any problems with the present occupier. Mr Fabrizio Necchi, a retired restaurateur, said he only found out about the investigation when he read a report in the local newspaper.

Nobody at the house, which is along a track overlooking the main road out of Aberdeen to the city's airport, was prepared to comment on the raid. A woman inside told callers to keep off private property.