Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Great Thai/Saudi Jewel Heist

The flight of a young Saudi woman to seek shelter in Thailand led Mythili Sampathkumar at Vox to explain how the two countries came to have such bad diplomatic relations:
In 1989, a Thai gardener named Kriangkrai Techamong was working in the palace of Saudi Prince Faisal bin Fahd in Riyadh. In the dead of night, Kriangkrai climbed a wall, slipped into a bedroom, and opened the family safe. He then made away with 200 pounds of jewels and gems worth more than $20 million — including a rare blue diamond, necklaces and watches lined with diamonds and sapphires, and, according to the Washington Post, “rubies the size of chicken eggs.”

Kriangkrai was one of many servants on the opulent palace grounds, and he later told authorities he thought his theft would go largely unnoticed because the family was so fabulously wealthy.
Saudi police have never released any information from their investigation, but rumor has it that Kriangkrai smuggled the jewels out in a vacuum cleaner bag.
Kriangkrai shipped the treasure home and then made his own way back to Thailand a short while later. He sold off the stolen jewels to a local dealer and thought he had gotten away with it, but authorities found and arrested him within a few months of his return.

Thai officials then located the stolen items and returned them to the prince — or so they had thought. Saudi officials discovered that only about 20 percent of the jewels were real, and the rest were forgeries.

Wild allegations were thrown back and forth. There were reports that the wives of Thai diplomats were parading around Bangkok wearing the original jewels, and senior Thai police officers were accused of being involved in the crime.
Four Saudi diplomats were murdered in Bangkok shortly after Kriangkrai's arrest, and again rumors flew that they had come to Thailand to find the jewels and were then murdered by the police.

An additional $120,000 worth of jewels were found and returned to the Saudis in 1991, but the Saudis say much is still missing, including that rare blue diamond.

1 comment:

Shadow said...

Well now, this little story has a bit of everything in it: a thief, a jeweler who might be a fence, a princess, corrupt Thai police, 4 murders, and a kidnapping and more murders. I've read the Vox and Vice versions of this story. Except for the princess, who seems to have escaped any mention in the Vice article, the Vice article is the better read.