Convicted Diavik diamond thief to be sentenced Feb. 6

Yellowknife Courthouse

A Yellowknife man who pleaded guilty to stealing almost $400,000 worth of rough, uncut diamonds while he was a diamond processor for Diavik is to be sentenced on February 6.

40-year-old Samson Mkhitaryan was convicted in court in Yellowknife Monday of stealing 29 diamonds in total on seven different days between December of 2017 and February of last year.

The Crown said it’s believed to be the largest theft, in terms of dollar value, ever in the NWT.

He was working as a sorter and polisher at the Diavik facility on Diamond Row near the Yellowknife Airport at the time.

Court heard that while he was working with the diamonds he would press them into his palm or between his fingers to conceal them and then put them in his pocket while pulling something out of his pocket, like his cellphone, at the same time.

Mkhitaryan did this in order to block the view from security cameras as he then replaced the stolen diamonds with small stones that he carried inside in his pockets.

He then took the diamonds into the washroom and concealed them somewhere on his body before he left work for the day, court heard.

It was also revealed that it was not uncommon for Mkhitaryn to work with 200,000 carats of diamonds at a given time, worth some $17 million.

The Crown said his thefts were detected by security personnel who had gone back and looked at the surveillance tapes.

Court heard RCMP called Mkhitaryan in for questioning after the thefts were discovered and he confessed to the crime before ever being arrested or charged.

He had no previous criminal record.

Evidence showed he hid the diamonds between plumbing pipes in his home and after Mounties initially could not find them, he drew them a map.

The 29 diamonds, worth exactly $393,045.23, were recovered and it’s believed they will be returned to Diavik after sentencing.

Mkhitaryan’s lawyer said his client was hoping to sell the diamonds to raise money for his parents medical bills back home in Armenia.

However, he added that Mkhitaryan wasn’t sure how to go about selling the diamonds and that when he did find out their high value, he was shocked.

His lawyer called for an 18 month sentence while the Crown asked for a sentence of between two and two and a half years in jail.

The maximum sentence is ten years in prison.

The judge, who said that he’d never seen a case quite like this one before, told both sides that he needed until a week Wednesday to decide the sentence for what he described as an intelligent, sophisticated crime.

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