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The two Hong Kong-based suppliers had just returned from a visit with a jewellery retailer
The two Hong Kong-based suppliers had just returned from a visit with a jewellery retailer

Armed attack on overseas jewellery suppliers

In what appears to be a highly planned armed robbery, at least four offenders have stolen $700,000 in diamond and gold jewellery from the back seat of a car.

Police have described the incident – which occurred in South Yarra, Victoria on Tuesday 14 July – as a “terrifying” armed robbery.

According to detective senior constable Katie Johnston from the Stonnington Crime Investigation Unit, two sales representatives from a Hong Kong-based jewellery supplier had been visiting a South Yarra jeweller for a pre-arranged appointment.

On completion of their business, the men returned to their rented car and placed two backpacks containing jewellery in the back seat. They had been sitting in the front seats of the vehicle when two armed thieves wearing black balaclavas jumped from a nearby blue Ford sedan, smashed three car windows and snatched both backpacks.

A third offender, who had remained behind the wheel of the sedan during the robbery, helped the other two offenders make their escape. Johnston said the robbery had taken less than 30 seconds.

The South Yarra jewellery retailer, who asked not to be indentified, confirmed to Jeweller that he had previously done business with the Hong Kong company and that on this latest occasion, he had purchased five items.

Johnston explained that police had gathered CCTV footage from various locations, which had allowed them to identify the perpetrators’ Ford sedan. The car was found abandoned in the middle of a road in a neighbouring suburb, and witnesses in the area reported they had seen the three men get into a second car.

It was believed a fourth offender had followed the Ford in the second getaway car from South Yarra, and that it may have been parked behind the Ford at the time of the attack. The Ford had been purchased three weeks ago via a Gumtree.com listing.

Although it is still unknown how the thieves knew the jewellery suppliers would be visiting the South Yarra store, the robbery appeared to have been highly organised.

The jewellery retailer advised that CCTV footage had shown a man making a phone call a few metres away from the store when the jewellery salesmen left his store, and it is believed that person may have been alerting the attackers. 

The Hong Kong nationals – aged 26 and 38 – left Australia two days later on their scheduled flight.

Johnston said she was not yet aware whether the jewellery had been legally imported into Australia, adding that she had requested all official paperwork, including customs clearance documents, from the company.


The Australian and New Zealand jewellery industries have suffered at the hands of overseas ‘bagmen’ – people who arrive selling bags of jewellery on a cash basis to local retailers.

Often the jewellery has been improperly entered into the country, having not been declared at customs and thus avoiding import duties and GST.

It is not unusual for jewellery to be carried into a country as hand luggage for security reasons. In such cases, the goods must be declared at customs on arrival and appropriate documentation finalised.

There are three main procedures for declaring goods: pre-clearing goods using a local customs agent to arrange all documentation; declaring goods on arrival at a border and arranging for paperwork to be done on the spot; or using an ATA Carnet.

In the case of pre-cleared goods, the traveller would attend the customs ‘Declare’ area and government staff would have a file ready for the goods to be officially entered into the country. They are checked and authorised.

When declaring on arrival, a similar procedure takes place, albeit all documentation is done there and then. On departure, the person would declare those products that have been sold and provide a report showing incoming and outgoing goods and pay an appropriate GST amount to Customs for the sold goods.

The other process is by way of an ATA Carnet, which is an international customs document that a traveller may use temporarily to import certain goods into a country. It negates the need to engage in the customs formalities usually required for the importation of goods and does not require the payment of duty or value-added taxes on the goods.

Carnets are used most often for exhibitions, sales presentation and display, and where the goods will leave the country. In other words, not sold.

Warning for jewellers

There has been concern in the local industry for some time because foreign nationals visit retailers with bags of jewellery selling for cash. Not only does the supplier not pay duty and/or GST but also the local retailer is complicit in smuggling activities.

The Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) has previously raised this matter with government authorities.

“We have been made aware that a number of overseas jewellery companies regularly send representatives on sales trips to Australia. These representatives – often referred to as ‘bagmen’ – usually carry large amounts of jewellery,” JAA Code of Conduct chair Colin Pocklington said.

“The JAA has concerns that some of these bagmen may not be carrying out the correct importation procedures  – including payment of duty and GST – giving them an unfair advantage over local suppliers.

“To protect the local industry the JAA recommends that retailers only deal with overseas jewellery representatives if they have an ABN and charge GST on a tax invoice. Most if not all of these overseas jewellery companies likely need to be registered for GST in Australia, as their total annual sales from these trips may well exceed $75,000.”

Pocklington added that the matter could now be made much worse for retailers who illegally purchase jewellery because of the new Anti-Money Laundering laws that are targeting the international jewellery industry.

Smash-and-grab attack on Geelong jeweller

In a separate incident, CCTV footage has captured two men smashing through the glass door of a Geelong jewellery store in a daring smash and grab at 4am on Saturday 18 July.

The pair broke through glass cases before fleeing in less than one minute with around $15,000 in value of Pandora rings and other jewellery.

Source: Geelong Advertiser
Source: Geelong Advertiser

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