Hove jewel thief jailed for seven years

Posted On 09 Apr 2010 at 11:18 pm

A career criminal from Hove has been jailed for seven years after targeting wealthy London tourists, including a Saudi Arabian prince.

Yuri Harris, 48, of Grand Avenue, Hove, was sent to prison after a British Transport Police (BTP) investigation.

His accomplice, Maher Ghalaini, 50, of Ealing, London, was jailed for four years when the pair appeared today at Southwark Crown Court.

Harris lived a lavish lifestyle funded by his ill-gotten gains, including renting a luxury property in Chelsea.

And the pair spent more than £8,500 using a stolen credit card in a 30-minute spree in Selfridges in Oxford Street, London.

BTP detectives followed Harris after receiving a tip-off. He and Ghalaini were posing as directors of a phoney jewellery company at an international jewellery fair in Earls Court, London, in September 2009.

They were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal after being spotted paying particular attention to delegates’ bags and handbags.

Further inquiries linked them to thefts from two wealthy individuals’ chauffeur-driven cars in London a month earlier.

Within days the pair had used a stolen credit card to buy designer clothes and jewellery worth more than £11,000 from Selfridges and other shops in the Oxford Street and Bond Street area.

Harris had previously been arrested and jailed for offences at Heathrow Airport and also in France and Switzerland, where he had conspired with another man to steal a case of valuables at a jewellery trade fair in Basel.

At an earlier trial Harris was found guilty of conspiracy to steal, money laundering and having false identity cards.

Ghalaini, of North Road, Ealing, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal, having a false passport in his name and fraudulent use of a credit card.

BTP Detective Sergeant John Wolstenholme said: “These were highly organised thefts which were carried out with military-like precision by two professional, well-heeled thieves, each with a long and chequered criminal history.

“When questioned, Harris could not properly account for how he was living such a lavish lifestyle legitimately – a fact that proved vital in his particular downfall.”

Det Sgt Wolstenholme said that officers were aware of Harris’s previous criminal activities and had kept a close eye on him because they had intelligence to suggest he was still criminally active.

Following his arrest alongside Ghalaini at Earls Court, officers used mobile phone analysis as part of their investigation to link them to the two thefts in central London the previous month.

“Harris and Ghalaini operated together on an almost daily basis at crowded tourist destinations in central London throughout the summer,” Det Sgt Wolstenholme said.

“Documents recovered from them after their arrests also revealed they had firm plans to travel to a further jewellery fair in Vicenza, Italy.

“Thankfully they were unable to make that trip and cause any further misery.”

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