Ex-Singapore shuttler 'stole $25m worth of diamonds'

LONDON - A former Singaporean national badminton player working as a bodyguard for the Brunei Sultan's ex-wife has been accused in a London court of swopping diamonds worth over 11.6 million pounds (S$24.5 million) with 300 pounds fakes in an audacious theft.

Fatimah Kumin Lim, 35, was not just a bodyguard to the wealthy Madam Mariam Aziz, 57, but also a close friend, and had travelled the world with her employer, a jury at Isleworth Crown Court heard in the criminal trial, according to media reports on Wednesday.

The pair would also gamble in casinos in London, where Lim apparently racked up sizeable debts, which she addressed by selling off the stolen stones, prosecutors told the court.

Lim is accused of taking a bracelet containing eight diamonds worth 3.35 million pounds, a 12-carat blue diamond ring worth 7.7 million pounds and a 600,000 pounds yellow diamond ring between May 2008 and December 2009.

Madam Aziz gave the bracelet to Lim for safekeeping after it kept catching on her dress during a dinner function at the Les Ambassadeurs casino in Mayfair in 2008, but Lim later denied having ever received it, prosecutor Gareth Patterson told the court.

Later, Madam Aziz's adopted daughter Afifa Abdullah was persuaded by Lim into briefly lending the two rings belonging to her mother to Lim for a property deal, the court heard. Lim then allegedly commissioned two fake diamonds worth 300 pounds and "returned" the imposter rings to the safe in Madam Aziz's Kensington home instead.

"It is a simple story. It is a simple, uncomplicated case of theft," said Mr Patterson in court, according to The Independent.

"In the course of her employment, (Lim) would spend considerable time with Madam Aziz at her addresses in Brunei, Singapore and London," he said. "Madam Aziz came to consider the defendant as one of her most trusted employees and essentially as a friend."

According to The Independent, when Lim was found out, she allegedly sent a text to Madam Aziz's nephew saying: "I truly regret what I have done. I really do. Please tell (Madam Aziz) to give me a chance to repent."

Lim, who won a silver medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, has denied all the charges, which carry a maximum 10-year jail term under Britain's Theft Act.

Madam Aziz, a former air hostess of Bruneian, Japanese and Scottish ancestry, was married to the Sultan of Brunei for 22 years before their divorce in 2003.

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