London raids: Celebrities lost £26m of property to burglary team

London raids: Celebrities lost £26m of property to burglary team

A team of burglars made off with £26m of property from the London homes of three celebrities, a court has heard.

Watches and jewellery belonging to the football boss Frank Lampard, heiress Tamara Ecclestone and the family of tycoon Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha were among the items taken last December.

Maria Mester, Emil Bogdan Savastru, Alexandru Stan and Sorin Marcovici deny conspiracy to burgle.

They were the “support cast” to the alleged burglars, jurors were told.

At Isleworth Crown Court, the jury was told the conspiracy was “one of the largest ever in this country” and that the raids happened over the space of two weeks in the run-up to Christmas. Four other people allegedly carried out the burglaries, but they cannot be named for legal reasons, the court was told.

Prosecutor Timothy Cray QC said the four people on trial had a role in what had been a “sophisticated” plan.

First, the west London home of the Chelsea manager and his wife Christine Lampard was raided on 1 December. A diamond watch, cufflinks and a clock worth an estimated £60,000 were taken, the court heard.

Then on 10 December, a Knightsbridge property belonging to the Srivaddhanaprabha family was targeted. It was billionaire Leicester City owner Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home before his death in a helicopter crash in October 2018.

This time, 400,000 euros in cash was taken, as well as expensive watches, the court heard.

The following day, the alleged burglars toasted the success of the raid on the Knightsbridge mansion, the court heard, enjoying a £760 champagne and sashimi lunch at the Zuma restaurant, five minutes’ walk from the crime scene.

The final burglary, on the palatial home near Kensington Palace that socialite Ms Ecclestone shares with her husband Jay Rutland, saw about £25m worth of valuables stolen.

Mr Cray said Ms Ecclestone’s team of security guards missed the men coming on to the property, adding: “The house is just so big that the guys didn’t realise the burglary was going on until it was well under way.”

Mr Cray added: “The burglaries netted big money – in round figures £26m worth of property was stolen, mainly in some fabulous jewellery and in cold hard cash.

“Virtually all that property has never been seen again. It was successfully laundered – concealed and disguised and got rid of.”

He added: “They were international crimes. Parts of the evidence look like a pre-Covid arrivals board at a London airport, with people flying in and out of Italy, Sweden, Japan and then being seen in the more ritzy parts of London – Harrods, Chelsea, a swish restaurant in Knightsbridge, while taking care to have safe bases that were a little bit more off the beaten track, down near Orpington and then over in Fulham.”

He told the court that by 18 December all of those involved in the burglaries had left the UK.

Mr Cray said Mr Savastru, of Bethnal Green, was the first of the team to be arrested, at Heathrow Airport on 30 January, as he tried to board a flight to Japan.

Jurors heard that when the 30-year-old was detained he was wearing a Tag Heuer watch which had belonged to Mr Srivaddhanaprabha and a Louis Vuitton bag that Mr Rutland bought in 2011.

The prosecution alleges that Mr Stan, Ms Mester, Mr Marcovici and Mr Savastru were all involved at various times in the conspiracy to burgle the three homes.

Mr Stan is alleged to have dropped out after the Lampard raid to be replaced with Ms Mester and Mr Marcovici, the latter then being substituted with Ms Mester’s son Mr Savastru for the Ecclestone job.

Mr Savastru’s defence barrister told the court he assumed the items “had been left for him” by the alleged burglars.

His mother, Ms Mester, 47, was the next person to be arrested the following day as she got off flight at Stansted from Milan.

Mr Cray said she was wearing £3,000 earrings that belonged to Ms Ecclestone.

Ms Mester’s defence barrister said she was given the items as a gift having spent a week as a “call girl” in December.

The trial continues.

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