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Reward offered for Mexican mastermind

PHUKET: A reward has been offered to anyone who can provide information relating to the location of 57-year-old Mexican woman, Mejia Asseneth, the alleged mastermind behind Monday’s jewellery heist in Phuket.

By Paritta Wangkiat

Thursday 17 May 2012, 05:13PM

The Police Commander of Trang Province, Maj Gen Sakorn Tongmunee, today (May 17) declined to specify the value of the reward, but confirmed that it is a ‘reasonable’ amount.

Police also said that anyone helping to hide Asseneth would be breaking the law.

Thai daily newspaper Thairath today (May 17) reported online that police believe Asseneth is still hiding in Trang.

Asseneth is suspected of being the leader of the four person gang that allegedly stole jewellery worth B30 million from a car in Phuket Town on Monday (May 14).

Already in custody are 41-year-old Mexican Ruben Gonzalez, Malaysian Rosina Abu Bakar, 42, and Turkish man Riza Balkan, 49, but Asseneth evaded police capture by escaping on foot.

The group are suspected of smashing a car window in Phuket Town and making off with the jewellery before being apprehended while allegedly attempting to flee to Malaysia.

The incident took place on Soi Bang Yai, behind the Big C department store near Central Festival.

The owner of the jewellery, Thongsak Jittakarnlert, 47, reported to police that his car was being followed by a white Vios on Sunday evening (May 13), after he left a jewellery fair at Central Festival.

The stolen jewellery, made from gold, diamonds and other precious gems, was transported from Bangkok to be displayed at the fair, which began on May 10.

Mr Thongsak said that before the theft, he parked his car in front of a small local restaurant, just 100 metres from his hotel, Baan Suan Place, while he had breakfast.

The thieves took this opportunity to break the car’s window and take the jewellery, police said.

CCTV camera footage showed a male and a female repeatedly walking past Mr Thongsak’s hotel room on the night before the theft.

Camera footage from a different angle showed the same foreign man walking into the hotel with another female.

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Following their capture seven hours after the theft, Gonzalez and Bakar were transferred to Phuket on Tuesday (May 15), while Balkan remained in the custody of Trang police, as ya ice and marijuana were also found in his possession.

The owner of the stolen jewellery, Mr Thongsak, reported 600 items missing. However, only 430 items were recovered from the gang. Police were still looking for the rest.

During a press conference on Tuesday (May 15), police revealed they had discovered the suspects had met on the internet and agreed to collaborate on several jewellery heists.

A notebook found in the suspects’ possession shows they listed several targets at jewellery fairs around Asia and Australia, including Sydney, Phuket and Bangalore.

Police suspect they might have already been involved in stealing jewellery at a fair in Bangna District, Bangkok.

Police allege that Gonzalez was the one who broke the window of Mr Thongsak’s car, while the rest of the suspects helped load the two suitcases of jewellery into their rented car before making their getaway.

CCTV camera footage from Central Festival and Bann Suan Place showed the gang had been following Mr Thongsak for a few days before the theft.

After the suspects allegedly snatched the jewellery, they are believed to have driven to Patong to dump the car.

They then reportedly hired a taxi from Patong to drive them to Songkla Province.

But Phuket officers had already sounded the alarm to police across all southern provinces, who set up checkpoints on the major roads.

When the suspects’ taxi approached a checkpoint in Trang Province, the suspects allegedly forced their driver to carry on through it.

Trang police eventually managed to force the car to stop, arresting three of the four suspects while Asseneth managed to flee from the scene.

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