Sunday, June 10, 2018

"The Blue Diamond Affair: The Jewel Heist That Became a Diplomatic Nightmare"

From The Daily Beast, May 12, 2018:

A jewel heist carried out by a Thai gardener against his rich Saudi prince boss led to a police investigation, murder, more theft, and a diplomatic rift between the two nations.,d_placeholder_euli9k,h_1440,w_2560,x_0,y_0/dpr_2.0/c_limit,w_740/fl_lossy,q_auto/v1526160232/180513-mcnearney-blue-diamond-affair-hero_nibjho
At the time, it must have seemed like the perfect plan. He was an unassuming Thai gardener working for a rich Saudi prince, who had more than his fair share of fine jewels.

Kriangkrai Techamong had the access, the chutzpah, and an exit strategy. Surely Prince Faisal bin Fahd wouldn’t miss a few pieces — and by “a few,” Kriangkrai had his eye set on about $20 million worth of bling.

The Blue Diamond Affair, as the incident has become known, is now the stuff of legend, a heist too crazy even for the big screen and one that would set a new standard for “get rich quick” schemes.
Kriangkrai was initially successful, although his plan included fleeing to his home country, so it’s not as if he expected to escape suspicion entirely. But once back in Thailand, things started to go very wrong.

For over two decades, the fallout from the affair has raged on. In the aftermath of the theft, the cast of characters has expanded to include Thai officials behaving badly, murdered Saudi investigators, and a major diplomatic rift between the two nations.

In the end, virtually none of the players have faced serious consequences and much of the original loot—including a rare 50-carat blue diamond that is said to be even larger than the infamous Hope Diamond—remain missing.

It all started in 1989 on the grounds of a palace in Riyadh. Kriangkrai certainly wasn’t the first employee to dream of coming into a windfall on the job, or the first to dream of righting the vast economic disparity between employer and employee. But he is the only one who has so dramatically turned those visions into reality — or at least tried to.

Under the cover of darkness one night, the gardener put his plan into action. He scaled the outside wall of the palace, stole in through a second-floor window, and liberated 200 pounds worth of jewelry from the family safe.

While the exact details of the theft have never been revealed, some accounts claim that he absconded with his booty by filling up the bag of a vacuum cleaner and wheeling it out. (He wouldn’t have looked entirely out of place if spotted; Kriangkrai sometimes pitched in as a palace janitor.)

He had captured a prize that included not only the famed Blue Diamond, but a $2 million sapphire necklace, a rare necklace of green diamonds, multiple gold watches, and, according to the Washington Post, “rubies the size of chicken eggs.”

However he managed to smuggle this hefty loot out of the palace, Kriangkrai didn’t waste any time in getting it far away from the scene of the crime. He shipped the spoils back to Thailand via DHL and followed in its path shortly thereafter....MUCH MORE
For comparison the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Institution:
Hope Diamond Data
Weight: 45.52 carats

Dimensions: Length 25.60 mm, Width 21.78 mm, Depth 12.00 mm

Cut: Cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion

Clartity: VS1. Whitish graining is present

Color: Fancy dark grayish-blue

In the pendant surrounding the Hope diamond are 16 white diamonds, both pear-shapes and cushion cuts. A bail is soldered to the pendant where Mrs. McLean would often attach other diamonds including the McLean diamond and the Star of the East. The necklace chain contains 45 white diamonds.


In addition to being a big rock the Hope has the cachet of a provenance that includes a curse and the deaths of a bunch of folks who owned it, including Louis XIV (gangrene) and later, Marie Antoinette.
Mental Floss has the details along with this tidbit:
James Todd, the mailman who delivered the diamond to the Smithsonian, apparently had his leg crushed in a truck accident shortly thereafter. He also suffered a head injury in a separate accident. Oh, also, his house burned down.
I'm not sure if all that adds up to the Hope's $250 million estimated value though.