By The Straits Times
Asia News N
The trial of a former national shuttler from Singapore accused of stealing diamonds from the ex-wife of the Brunei Sultan has thrown up more tales of intrigue and deception resulting from gambling sprees in top casinos.
A British court heard that Fatimah Lim, 35, confessed to Brunei police that she stole diamonds from Mariam Aziz, 57, in order to pay off a US$8.3 million (Bt270 million) debt to five London casinos, reported The Daily Telegraph. “I had the idea of getting the diamond rings and selling them off to pay my debts – my intention was to get the diamond rings back after paying my debt,” Lim said in her statement to Brunei police.
Lim, a 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, is on trial in London accused of stealing three pieces of jewellery worth 12 million euros (Bt533 million) from Mariam in 2009, replacing two of them with replicas of glass and the mineral tanzanite made by British jeweller Edwin Solomon. Lim was then employed as the bodyguard and personal assistant to Mariam. She was arrested in Brunei in January 2010.
But during the trial at Isleworth Crown Court in London last Friday, Lim claimed Brunei officers changed her statement in order to shift the blame for the loss of the gems away from her former boss and the Bruneian Royal Family.
She maintained that Mariam struggled to pay off her gambling debts and that she was told to sell the latter’s jewellery in order to pay off the losses, The Daily Telegraph reported.
But reports in the British media said Lim herself chalked up a huge debt playing the tables at top London casinos including the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square and Aspinalls near Park Lane.
Mariam reportedly tempted Lim into a gambling lifestyle after jaunts to casinos in Singapore, Macau, and London. The former wife of the Brunei Sultan had earlier admitted in the London court that she sold jewellery to pay off 1 million euros in gambling debts after sprees at a string of London casinos. The London court heard that Lim twice asked Mariam’s adopted daughter Afifa Abdullah if she could borrow a 12.71 carat blue diamond worth 7.6 million euros, and a 27.1 carat yellow diamond worth 600,000 euros, as collateral on a property deal.
“After I got the two diamond rings in July 2009, I met Edwin in his office in Hatton Garden – he took the size, weight, colour, he photocopied them in the office for about an hour then I returned the two diamond rings to Afifa,” Lim told Brunei officers.
The ex-shuttler also showed Solomon a forged letter stating that the jewels were a gift from Mariam to her mother as a gesture of appreciation for 28 years of service as her personal assistant, the British court heard.
But Mariam told the court that Lim’s mother had never worked for her, and that they had met only once.
When the replicas were ready in September and October 2009, Lim told Solomon she did not want to go through with her plan, but pressure from the casinos to pay up pushed her to “swap the diamond rings and sell the diamond rings to pay off my casino debt,” according to The Daily Telegraph.