A Romanian couple who “meticulously” planned to steal a £68k watch from Harrods by swapping it with a forgery hidden in a child’s hood have been jailed.

Ilie Para, 35, and Marta Para-Bloj, also 35, will spend over two years behind bars after they pleaded guilty to shoplifting at Southwark Crown Court on Monday.

The pair and a young child visited the luxury watch section of the Knightsbridge department store in Brompton Road.

Police said they posed as genuine customers keen on buying an 18ct rose gold Royal Oak Offshore Audemars Piguet watch worth £67,400.

While the sales assistant was distracted, Para concealed the watch in his jacket replacing it with a nearly identical replica hidden in the hood of the child’s jacket.

After making the swap, the couple left the store telling the salesperson they “needed to think” about the purchase.

The store realised the theft the day after and launched an internal investigation before calling police.
The 18ct rose gold Royal Oak Offshore Audemars Piguet watch worth £67,400.

CCTV showed that the couple had visited the store to try on, and take photos of the watch, in the days leading up to the theft on December 19 last year.
Police said the pair had arrived at the store in their black Audi A3, the same car they used in their attempt to flee the country after the theft.

The couple were arrested by Kent Police in September as they attempted to leave the country in their Audi at the Port of Dover.

Para was caught red-handed as he was arrested still wearing the stolen watch.

PC Andy Goodchild, who led the investigation said: “This couple entered the UK with the intention to steal. They meticulously planned the theft, carried out reconnaissance and obtained a replica of the item they wanted to take. Perhaps even worse, they used a child to carry out their plot.”

Ilie Para of Brampton Grove was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

Marta Para-Bloj, also of Brampton Grove was jailed for eight months.

Evening Standard