Romanian barman cleared over £25m raid on Tamara Ecclestone’s mansion despite being caught with her stolen handbag is facing jail for having £1m in counterfeit cash
- Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, arrested at Heathrow with the Louis Vuitton luggage
- He hid the phoney cash at a friend’s house in east London before going to airport
- Police recovered a novelty gun that can be loaded up with notes to spray cash
- Savastru convicted of having custody or control of a counterfeit note after trial
A Romanian barman who was cleared over a £25m raid on Tamara Ecclestone’s mansion despite being caught with her stolen handbag is now facing jail for having £1million in counterfeit cash.
Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, was arrested at Heathrow with the Louis Vuitton luggage grabbed during the ‘Burglary of the Century at the model’s ‘Billionaire’s Row’ home.
He also had Frank Lampard’s Tag Heuer smart watch which was taken in a raid on the footballer’s home by an Eastern European crime gang.
Savastru hid the counterfeit cash at his friend Gergo Munzenrieder’s house in Shetland Road, Mile End, east London before heading to the airport for a flight to Japan.
The money was in Euros and Sterling and was packed in such a way that the word ‘facsimile’ was not visible when first examined.
Police also recovered a novelty gun that can be loaded up with bank notes to spray his friends with cash.
Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, was arrested at Heathrow with the Louis Vuitton luggage grabbed during the ‘Burglary of the Century at the model’s ‘Billionaire’s Row’ home
During their search, they found a bag with hundreds of what appeared to be £50 and 200 euro notes stuffed in large cases
Officers shared the notes with the Bank of England, who examined them and confirmed they were phoney
Savastru’s barrister Adam Kane said the gun was a popular accessory in Japanese strip clubs where his client had just returned from holiday.
Mr Kane said: ‘In his possession was a red toy spray gun, that is placed with currency and fired off. These sorts of thing abound in the strip clubs of Tokyo’.
Savastru, of Wyllen Close, Stepney, gave no explanation for the counterfeit notes during his police interview but he was convicted of having custody or control of a counterfeit note following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court.
He was earlier jailed for six months for handling the bag and the watch but walked free after spending almost a year in prison.
Savastru will be sentenced for fake money on February 10 next year.
Along with his mother, sex worker Maria Mester, 47, her, security worker Sorin Marcovici, 53, and Alexandru Stan, 49, he was cleared by a jury of being part of the support team to burglars who netted at least £26m in jewellery and cash in December last year.
They hit the homes of Ecclestone, Lampard and late Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabh’s home which had been kept untouched as a shrine by his bereaved family.
The raiders managed to get into a secure ‘vault’ in the Ecclestone home and emptied an entire jewellery cabinet of 450 items.
Savastru told jurors he thought the stolen watch and bag were ‘tokens of appreciation’ left for him by the alleged burglars.
He said he Googled ‘London burglaries’ a week after the raids out of suspicion at the origin of the watch and Louis Vuitton bags.
He also told jurors he found gems in the seams of the Louis Vuitton bag when he shook it upside down, but claimed a jeweller laughed at him when he tried to sell them.
When he was sentenced Judge Martin Edmunds told him: ‘It is clear that you ingratiated yourself with these men assuming it would be to your or your mother’s benefit and expecting reward and aware of the resources available to them.
Raiders managed to get into a secure ‘vault’ in the home of Tamara Ecclestone (pictured with Jay Rutland) and emptied an entire jewellery cabinet of 450 items
The £25m raid on the property (pictured) has since been dubbed the burglary of the century
‘In your evidence you said you were suspicious when you first found the watch because it was in a Rolex box and there would be no reality in ignoring the other evidence you yourself gave of finding jewels, albeit you say not genuine ones, in the lining of the bag.
‘The property in this charge was a stolen Louis Vuitton bag, some nine years old, and a stolen Tag Heuer watch with an original retail price in the region of £1,500 and they came from two of the burglaries to which I have referred.
‘The total value at new retail prices would be some £2,500. There is no glamour in these burglaries however well known or wealthy the home owners may be.
‘The invasion of a person’s home, the place where they have a right to feel safe and secure, is a grave crime.
‘Whatever the financial value, the hurt that follows from the loss of items of sentimental value, collected over the years and marking special moments in life, will be recognised by us all.
‘The burglary of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home followed his untimely death.
‘His family had maintained it untouched, and so its desecration can only have added to their grief.
‘With these burglaries the crimes were compounded by the damage done during ransacking.’
Speaking in English, the Milan-raised Romanian told jurors he thought the gems in the Louis Vuitton bag were ‘costume jewellery’ and sent a photo to his friend on Facebook.
He said: ‘It was in the seams of the bag, it didn’t seem to be a real place to leave some diamonds around.
‘I looked in the bag and hadn’t seen any, so that’s when I went home and started shaking and this bit of crystal was falling out.’
In a prepared statement during his interview after his January 30 arrest at Heathrow he said: ‘I don’t know much because I’ve been kept in the dark from what you can tell.
Christine and Frank Lampard were robbed of around £50,000 worth of valuables from their home
On December 10, the gang hit the Knightsbridge home of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha (pictured) in Walton Place. The raid took place more than a year after he was killed in a helicopter accident after a Leicester City game
‘I’ve been kept in the dark, just breadcrumbs, £50 quid here and there, you know?’
Laughing at the idea of being paid money, he told jurors he had only received money for cabs.
‘You’ve seen my financial situation, don’t make me laugh.’
Savstru then admitted receiving some cash for the help he offered to the alleged burglars.
He was cleared of attempted money laundering for trying to buy £8,985 cash at Harrods on two Louis Vuitton leather jackets with one of the alleged burglars on 14 December.
His card was used to rent a flat in Fulham for 14 days on 16 December where all of the burglars are said to have stayed after the raid.
The card was his but the booking was made by one of the alleged burglars, Savastru told jurors.
He was also cleared of money laundering for purchasing £3,000 luxury goods at Harrods with his mother and the sister of one of the alleged burglars on 17 December.
Savastru, 30, was cleared of conspiracy to burgle and convicted of attempting to remove criminal property and sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Detective Constable Andrew Payne, who led the bogus money investigation, said: ‘Our proactive operation means we have been able to take a significant quantity of counterfeit notes out of circulation. Without a doubt, these notes would have been used to commit further crimes across the UK.
‘This successful prosecution relied heavily on the close working between the Met and the Bank of England, leaving little doubt that Savastru was guilty of these offences.
‘Counterfeit currency in the UK harms the economy and has a real, significant impact on businesses who take possession of it unknowingly. As this prosecution shows, we will take action against anyone engaged in this type of criminality.’
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