x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Police make arrest after Dh3.5m gold and diamond heist

Police say they arrested one of two people involved in a massive jewellery robbery this summer.

DUBAI // Late one midsummer night, two masked men forced their way into a jewellery store and made off with about Dh3.5 million worth of gold and diamonds.

They left only empty safes and some discarded tools. Police say that within hours of the robbery on July 19, the thieves had flown out of the country.

But late last month, police arrested one of them and recovered some of the loot.

The story began when officers received a report about 10am on July 20.

"Patrols were deployed as soon as we received the report and the place was cut off to prevent the disappearing of any possible evidence," said Col Mohammed Nasser, the deputy director of the Dubai Police CID.

The only evidence police found was closed-circuit TV footage - which showed just figures, no faces - and the tools hidden under the rooftop air-conditioner unit, none of which carried fingerprints.

About 62 police officers were assigned to the case. The first step was to notify all border posts about the stolen items to ensure they would not be smuggled out.

Another team was tasked with identifying the source of the tools used in the break-in, while a third started to search for suspects in Dubai hotels.

"We had a feeling that they were not residents of the country because of the way they were dressed," said Lt Col Ahmed Al Merri, the head of the CID.

A shop owner in Al Muraqabat identified the tools and gave general descriptions of the people who had bought them. The details matched those of the two filmed on CCTV.

The descriptions narrowed the hotel search, and eventually officers identified two men from Kosovo who had left on July 20 after suddenly moving forward their departure date. Police named them as RN and AR, both in their 30s.

The two had come into the country six days before the robbery to search for a target, police said.

They chose a warehouse with a small staircase to the roof, in a small, unlit alley beside the Gold Souq in Al Naif, police say.

Investigators at the border posts, meanwhile, determined that the stolen items had not been taken outside the country.

A police source, who happened to be in Albania at the time, confirmed RN and AR were in Kosovo and that they had long criminal records.

"We could not issue a warrant against them, and if we did it would mean that the gold would be lost, so we decided to wait," Lt Col Al Merri said. "We had a feeling that they would come back."

A special team was deployed around the clock at Dubai International Airport to ensure the return of the two did not go unnoticed.

On November 26, police received information from the Albanian source that RN and AR were arranging to sell gold and jewels to two traders, identified as AH and MH.

A condition for the sale was that the goods had to be handed over in person.

The next day, RN and the two traders arrived in Dubai and checked into a hotel.

"They were put under surveillance the second they stepped foot in Dubai," Lt Col Al Merri said.

On November 30, about 2am, RN left the hotel and went to an abandoned cemetery in Al Naif, jumped the wall and five minutes later returned with a bag. Once he reached the hotel, he met the two traders.

Then he was arrested.

"We wanted to recover the gold and we were convinced that they were not taken outside the country," Lt Col Al Merri said.

"There is no joy in our work when we do not recover people's money and belongings. Therefore, we were patient."

wissa@thenational.ae