Tables turned as bodyguard of Sultan of Brunei’s ex-wife is cleared of stealing £8m-worth of diamonds
Fatimah Lim buried her head in her hands and wept as the majority verdicts were delivered
A former bodyguard for the Sultan of Brunei’s ex-wife has been dramatically cleared of stealing £8m-worth of diamonds after claiming she was authorised to sell the jewels to conceal her ex-boss’s huge gambling debts.
Fatimah Lim, 35, was found not guilty of swapping a £7.6m blue diamond and a yellow diamond, worth £600,000, with fakes made out of glass and tanzanite by a jeweller in Hatton Garden. The precious stones were given to Ms Lim’s boss Mariam Aziz, 59, by the Sultan of Brunei, one of the world’s richest men, during their 21-year marriage.
However, Ms Lim – a former international badminton player – claimed she had been secretly authorised to sell the diamonds by her boss, who was struggling to pay off gambling debts racked up in casinos in London, Singapore and Macau.
It can now be reported that an almost identical civil case was heard in the High Court in 2012 – which resulted in Ms Aziz successfully suing Ms Lim for stealing the diamonds. In his judgment at the time, Mr Justice Lindblom castigated Ms Lim for being “wholly unconvincing”, “impossible to believe”, “entirely lacking in credibility” and “simply not capable of belief”.
As he awarded Ms Aziz millions of pounds in damages, he said: “Her [Ms Lim’s] credibility as a witness, and the integrity of her defence, are thus damaged beyond repair.” But the jury at Isleworth Crown Court evidently thought otherwise.
During the five-week trial, the court heard extraordinary details of the opulent lifestyle of Ms Aziz, a former air hostess who was awarded £4bn – one of the largest divorce payouts in history – when she split with the Sultan in 2004. Following the collapse of her marriage, the jury was told Ms Aziz would spend up to 14 hours a day in casinos, losing up to £1m on a daily basis as she played roulette.
She started a relationship with the manager of a London club and travelled around the world with an entourage of more than ten people including three female bodyguards, a chef, hairdresser, seamstress, maids and family members, the court heard. When she gave evidence, Ms Aziz admitted borrowing £2.8m from her bodyguard to repay loans for her “obscene” level of gambling at London casinos, but denied authorising Ms Lim to sell the three jewels in question.
Ms Lim buried her head in her hands and wept as the majority verdicts were delivered. The court heard from more than 20 witnesses, including several members of Ms Aziz’s extended family, a senior policeman from Brunei and Edwin Solomon, a jeweller from Hatton Garden who sold the diamonds allegedly stolen by Ms Lim.
Almost all of them appeared for the prosecution and gave evidence against the bodyguard, who claimed she had been set up in order to suppress Ms Aziz’s troubled financial affairs. Ms Lim was employed as Ms Aziz’s badminton coach – and later her bodyguard – after retiring as a professional player following a knee injury shortly after winning a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.
She became a trusted aide and told the court she was expected to accompany her employer into the lavatory and wait with her in the cubicle when they visited casinos. “I would wipe the toilet seat for her and prepare water in a bottle for her to wash and then, when she finished, I had to flush whatever she had done,” she told the court.
In May 2008, Ms Aziz gave Ms Lim a diamond bracelet for safekeeping on a trip to a casino but never found it again and thought it was lost. The following year, Ms Lim was accused of duping Ms Aziz’s adopted daughter Afifa Abdullah into loaning her two diamonds as collateral for a property deal, which she then sold to Mr Solomon and replaced with fakes in the safe in Ms Aziz’s home in Kensington. The prosecution had claimed the theft was discovered when the gems - then set in rings - were taken to an expert for re-sizing.
A source close to Ms Lim, who was extradited to Britain last year to face trial, said she was keen to return to Singapore as quickly as possible.
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