Asian gold: More than £140m stolen in UK in last five years

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A gold necklace and earrings set

More than £140m worth of Asian gold jewellery has been stolen in the UK over the past five years, a BBC investigation has found.

Gold jewellery is often bought as a wedding gift in British Asian families and passed down through generations.

Out of 23 police forces that provided figures, Greater London had the highest value stolen - £115.6m, followed by £9.6m in Greater Manchester.

Nearly 28,000 thefts of Asian gold have been recorded in the UK since 2013.

A BBC Freedom of Information request to the 45 police forces in the UK revealed that £141.3m worth of so-called Asian gold had been recorded as stolen since 2013 in England - the forces in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland didn't provide data.

Some police forces - such as Gwent and North Wales Police - were unable to provide data but have previously warned that Asian families were being specifically targeted in their areas.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Asian gold is often bought as wedding gifts and passed down through generations

It is the first time that a comprehensive figure revealing the extent of the thefts of Asian gold in the UK has been collated.

The five police forces found to have the highest value of thefts in 2017-18 were:

  • Metropolitan Police - £21.2m (3,300 thefts)
  • Kent Police - £1.6m (89 thefts)
  • Greater Manchester Police - £1.5m (238 thefts)
  • Essex Police - £495,000 (52 thefts)
  • Thames Valley Police - £310,000 (102 thefts)

'Family heirlooms' stolen

Retired couple Shaheed and Syeda Syed, who live in the north of England, were victims of a violent robbery in their home in December last year.

Attacked by masked intruders who were armed with an iron bar, both were beaten and Mr Syed suffered a heart attack.

The thieves took bangles, necklaces and rings which had been in the family for generations and Mrs Syed had been keeping for her granddaughters.

"Most of the jewellery was from my parents, some was from my husband, so it had sentimental value," she said.

The couple were left very shaken by the attack. Mr Syed said: "At night when I lock all the doors and windows and go to bed, still I don't feel safe."

He said he couldn't understand why they were targeted as they are not rich and do not live in an expensive area.

Mrs Syed added: "Even if I had money, I would be scared to buy gold again and scared to keep it at home."

Police officers said that in some of the burglaries victims owned large amounts of jewellery, but that was not always the case.

In Cheshire, police set up a dedicated team to work with members of the community after a series of Asian gold-related burglaries.

Officers tracked groups of criminals who were working across the North West, into north Wales and the Midlands. Their operation led to a number of convictions.

But Aaron Duggan, head of crime at Cheshire Police, said one of the challenges they face is that gold can be disposed of easily.

He added: "At second-hand outlets, certainly around Asian jewellery, questions should be asked - 'who is this person in front of me selling this gold?'

"The irony is it's often harder in this country to sell scrap metal than it is second-hand jewellery."

Image caption,
Jeweller Sanjay Kumar says people need to think carefully about storage

Sanjay Kumar, who specialises in selling Asian gold in Southall, west London, said the jewellery has cultural significance.

"People are told by their parents and grandparents 'you must buy gold - it's an investment, it's lucky'", he said. "It's something that we as Asians do, so people are following the tradition and the culture."

He added that he advises his customers to think carefully about how they store it and to make sure that it is insured.