Gang members who broke into the home of the late Leicester City owner Khun Vichai in London, and members of other celebrities, have been jailed.
The thieves stole £ 26 million in cash, jewelery and precious stones in a series of raids described as Britain’s biggest celebrity raid
Three members of the criminal operation were convicted at Isleworth Crown Court in the capital on Monday 15 November.
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Italian nationals Yugoslav Jovanovic, 24, Alessandro Maltese, 45, and Alessandro Donati, 44, were behind raids on three properties in just 13 days back in December 2019.
One of the raids included Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s Knightsbridge residence, which had been left as a family sanctuary to the popular Foxes president after his tragic death, 60 years, along with four others in the King Power Stadium helicopter crash in October the year before.
The gang targeted the property on December 10, where a TAG Heuer watch he was wearing before leaving for Leicester on that fateful day was among more than £ 1 million in stolen property.
The court heard the burglars even put a 500-pound bottle of Cristal champagne to drink as they carried out the raid, and later celebrated with a 760-pound sushi meal at the Knightsbridge restaurant Zuma.
The home of former Chelsea FC star and manager Frank Lampard, 43, and his 42-year-old TV host wife Christine, was also targeted along with socialite and TV personality Tamara Ecclestone.
The court heard that Mrs Ecclestone, 37, daughter of former Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, was on holiday in Lapland with her husband, art gallery owner Jay Rutland, 38, their daughter and their dog when their mansion in Palace Green, Kensington, was raided on December 13th.
Hundreds of jewelery, cash, diamonds and precious stones worth 25 million pounds were stolen from the 2,000-square-foot property, spread over six floors, in what is believed to have been the country’s largest domestic burglary ever.
Police said the gang was believed to have committed similar crimes against high-profile victims across Europe and had planned to commit further raids on the rich and famous in Britain.
Detectives have not revealed the identities of other potential victims who did not know how close they were getting to burglary as the thieves performed reconnaissance missions and dummy races.
Jovanovic, Maltese and Donati were extradited from Italy between November 29 and December 18, 2019 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to break into the three raids.
Jovanovic also admitted conspiracy to commit money laundering between December 10, 2019 and January 31 last year, and a case of attempted conversion of criminal property.
He was jailed on Monday for 11 years by Judge Martin Edmunds QC at Isleworth Crown Court, while Maltese and Donati were each sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison.
The men, who were brought to justice under armed police guard when a helicopter flew overhead, will return to Italy to serve their sentences following the outcome of a criminal case in Britain.
Judge Edmunds said when he judged the trio: “In November and December 2019, you each flew into this country to take your part in attacking the homes of well-known and wealthy people in West London.
“The fact that every burglary was carried out despite the precautions of the occupants – that so much was stolen, and so, it must be discharged, removed from the land and not recovered, speaks to the overall organization, planning and criminal determination, along with a will to to take chances. “
He added: “You did it in the hope of a significant gain for yourselves, but regardless of the loss of these people – not only of objects of economic value, but of objects of deep personal importance and of that sense of security and safety, as everyone has the right to “feel in their own home.”
The judge said the gang had chosen their target because of “the fame of their occupiers”.
“The distress caused by burglary in a home by homeowners, who may be well-known or wealthy, is no less than those inflicted on them in various circumstances,” he said.
“The acute distress inflicted on children, or the fear of child safety, is a special feature. There have been life-changing effects on the victim’s own sense of security.”
A fourth member of the gang, Daniel Vukovic, 44, is believed to be a Serbian citizen using a number of aliases, fleeing to Belgrade, where he is still believed to be following a failed extradition offer.
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Prosecutor Timothy Cray QC said he was the “prime mover in organizing the team in the UK”, who “planned and carried out the most valuable burglaries that have ever come to light” in the country.
Only a handful of items have been found, while the rest of the stolen goods worth £ 26 million are believed to have been taken abroad.
At the end of the case, Detective Andrew Payne of the Metropolitan Police said: “A treasure is buried somewhere, globally.”
He added: “The plots are comparable to what you would see in a Hollywood movie, but unfortunately this was real life involving real victims who have suffered a lot during their actions.”
The Lampards stole around £ 60,000 in watches and jewelery while out of their Chelsea property on 1 December.
On their way to the last £ 25 million burglary, Maltese stole a packet of chewing gum from a kiosk at Victoria station when the gang stopped to buy coffee and cakes.
Jovanovic and his uncle Vukovic were later seen on CCTV in Harrod’s department store spending thousands of pounds on luxury goods and signing up for loyalty cards with fake names.
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