Ex-shuttler charged with theft of diamond rings

SINGAPORE - Former national badminton player Fatimah Kumin Lim has been charged with the theft of two diamond rings belonging to the former wife of the Sultan of Brunei in 2009.

The 35-year-old, who has denied the charges, will defend herself during a 10-day hearing in a London court next January. The dates were fixed when she appeared at the Isleworth Crown Court last Tuesday.

Lim was first charged earlier last month at the Hammersmith Magistrates Court in West London under the name of Waheeda Abdullah.

This after she was extradited from Singapore where she had been detained since May at the request of the British authorities.

She did not resist the extradition order.

The former shuttler is alleged to have stolen two rare diamonds worth £8.7 million (S$17.2 million) from the home of Madam Mariam Aziz in Kensington West London between July and December 2009.

Madam Mariam, 55, used to be married to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. They have four children but divorced in 2003 after 22 years of marriage.

Lim, a 2002 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, was then employed as the wealthy woman's bodyguard and personal assistant.

The 12.71-carat pear-shaped, flawless and vivid blue diamond is worth £8.1 million while the other cut-cornered yellow diamond is valued at about £640,000, according to British media reports citing the Crown prosecutor. The diamonds were gifts from the Sultan to Madam Mariam.

The criminal trial is set to be a sequel to the civil suit last year in London that Madam Mariam won against Lim, for the loss of the diamonds and a bracelet with eight diamond pieces embedded in it.

But unlike the civil suit hearing where Lim did not show up in London but submitted her defence documents through a London law firm, the current criminal trial will see her appear in court to address the charges.

The London court in the civil case had then found Lim liable for the losses and had ordered her to repay Madam Mariam $7.88 million, which included $755,592 in legal costs.

Madam Mariam's Singapore lawyers subsequently took steps to recover the sums from various sources linked to Lim through court proceedings, which included bank accounts and the auctioning of her Tanglin condominium.

Lim has been remanded in London and it is understood her assigned lawyer did not apply for bail for her as she has no address in the United Kingdom.

The alleged offences carry a maximum 10-year jail term under Britain's Theft Act.

A further pre-trial hearing will be held next month at the Isleworth Crown Court.

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