Police and private investigators are combing four continents for the whereabouts of up to $50 million worth of rough diamonds stolen from Australia s Argyle mine between 1988 and 1993.
Three accused principals in the scheme have been arrested: Barry Crimmins, Argyle s former security chief; Crimmins wife, Lynette; and Lindsay Gordon Roddan, a race horse owner and the alleged mastermind. However, the ongoing probe has reached far beyond the three principals, resulting in allegations of corruption and incompetence in the Western Australia police force.
Investigators also have called on one of Europe s best-known gem dealers and a former research scientist at the Gemological Institute of America. Neither has been charged with any wrongdoing.
Argyle maintains an official silence about the investigation, but a former employee who declines to be identified says Crimmins took advantage of a crack in Argyle s elaborate security setup to purloin some of the mine s top diamonds, including an 11-ct. light pink stone. The weak spot was the gap between the time when diamonds were sorted at the mine and when they were weighed and registered in Argyle s computer system. Until the diamonds were weighed in, there was no official record of them, says the source. As security chief, Crimmins had access to the sorting areas and knew when surveillance cameras were off.
Because the stolen diamonds had never been entered into the system, Argyle didn t realize any had been taken until late 1989, when several rough pink diamonds showed up in Antwerp and Geneva. They looked suspiciously like ours, says the source. No one knew where they were coming from, so we started to investigate.
One of these stones ended up at GIA, donated by Theo Horowitz, a gem dealer in Geneva who specializes in very high quality colored diamonds and very large white diamonds. Emmanuel Fritsch, then a research scientist at GIA and now a professor of physics at Nantes University in France, accepted the stone and took it to the lab for examination. The invoice listed the origin as Bow River, South Africa. The Bow River mine is actually in Australia, several hundred miles from Argyle. Fritsch says investigators have tried to use that mistake to imply that he tried to cover up the theft.
Police called in: Argyle turned the case over to the West Australia police department, where it died quickly, according to court documents. Police Detective Robin Thoy told an investigating committee last year that senior officers ordered him to write off the inquiry.
Argyle diamonds continued to leak into world markets for more than a year, so Argyle pressed police again for an investigation. They told us there wasn t enough evidence to prosecute anyone, says the former employee.
Then in 1993, Lynette Crimmins told police her husband had taken 240 rough diamonds by concealing them in plastic film canisters and giving them to Roddan, who sold them on the market. Armed with her testimony, Western Australia police began a third inquiry. Barry and Lynette Crimmins pleaded guilty to conspiracy and theft and began to help police in the investigation. Barry Crimmins was sentenced to four years in prison; Lynette Crimmins was released on probation.
But the investigation stalled again, leaving Roddan uncharged. Argyle executives went ballistic, says the former employee, and funded their own investigation of the stolen diamonds and the Western Australia police force.
The pink diamond donated to GIA was the most identifiable stolen gem, so Argyle s private investigators zeroed in on Fritsch and Horowitz, who both deny any wrongdoing and point out they ve never been visited by real police. Horowitz adds that the investigations have come to naught because no one has been able to positively identify Argyle s diamonds. The law says proof of ownership stops at the mine¹s border, he says. After they leave the mine, there is no way to prove where they come from.
Using information gathered by the private investigators, Western Australia Police Commissioner Bob Falconer began a full-scale investigation of his force. The resulting report suggests that as many as 40 police officers could have been on the take from Roddan and Crimmins. At press time, Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Noye was awaiting trial on charges he obstructed justice in the second failed investigation and tipped off Crimmins and Roddan about the probe. Press reports say other police officers may be indicted or disciplined as a result of the Falconer probe.