A HATTON Garden shop owner claims the infamous 2015 diamond heist was the best thing that ever happened to London’s jewellery district.
Brett Afshar, 43, says the notorious robbery has put the street firmly on the map – and even claims jealous Bond Street jewellers moan that their Hatton Garden rivals “get all the luck”.
Up to £200million worth of diamonds are thought to have been stolen in the notorious raid carried out by a gang of elderly crooks – who The Sun famously dubbed the Diamond Wheezers.
Brett from Islington, North London – who owns jewellers Hearts of London and Queensmith – got away without having any diamonds nicked.
Some were not so lucky and were put out of business when their valuable gem hauls were nabbed in the raid.
But even those who did suffer have seen a massive spike in business since the heist.
He said: “We got the world’s best advertising campaign – especially with the film coming out.
“The raid put us on the map for the wrong reason, but it made people think of us ahead of Bond Street.
“Hatton Garden is now the coming place.
“We’re getting lots of foreign visitors and they are now seeing it as a tourist attraction in its own right after the raid.”
Brett says his shops have seen a 20 per cent spike in business year-on-year since the raid with one-in-three diamond rings bought in the UK now being purchased in Hatton Garden.
He adds that the once-unfashionable promenade is now regularly packed with throngs of tourists checking out the scene of the crime.
Some have even bumped into film stars as they shoot the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster starring Michael Caine and Ray Winstone.
Jeweller Brett added: “It’s caused chaos with all the filming.
“But sometimes you see Michael Caine walking up and down perusing various jewellers.”
Having just installed a brand new CCTV system in the months before the robbery, some of his CCTV footage proved key to helping the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad nail their men over the heist.
The motley crew of career criminals with a combined age of 442 are thought to have got away with as much as £200m worth of diamonds after raiding the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit – where shops keep their collections in safe storage.
Carried out over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, the gang entered through a lift shaft before drilling through 50cm of concrete and reinforced metal.
Ring leader Brian Reader, 78, was among seven men – with an average age of 63 – sentenced to between six and seven years for their role in the robbery.
Most of the gems have still not been recovered and are feared to have been leaked onto the black market and sold abroad.
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