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£40million diamond robbery gang recruited from Lisson Green

PUBLISHED: 17:24 06 August 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 07 September 2010

THE prime mover in the recording-breaking £40million Graff diamond robbery recruited his gang from the Lisson Green estate where he grew up. Aman Kassaye was charged with recruiting a team of willing robbers, although those who planned the daring heist

THE ringleader in the recording-breaking £40million Graff diamond robbery recruited his gang from the Lisson Green estate where he grew up.

On Friday, Aman Kassaye along with Beyene, Thomas, Mogg and Kassaye were all sentenced to lengthy spells behind bars totalling 71 years for their involvement in the bold gem raid.

As the main organiser, Kassaye received the longest jail term of 23 years. He was given 16 years for conspiracy to rob, a further five years for possessing a firearm and a further two years for kidnap.

It emerged that Kassaye recruited the majority of his team of willing robbers from Lisson Green, although those who planned the daring heist and remain at large.

Born in Ethiopia, where his father was a captain in police force, Kassaye moved to the UK with his amily when he was three-years-old.

He grew up with two sisters and one brother at the family home in Turville House, Grendon Street, on the council estate.

Kassaye left North Westminster School aged 16 with eight GCSE passes, then completed a two-year B-tec in sports science at Paddington College.

He went on to St Mary's University in Twickenham but quit a media degree after the first year because he 'couldn't keep up'.

By this time he had notched up his first criminal conviction and he soon found himself immersed in the drugs world.

Aged 18, he was convicted of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place and was sentenced to 120-hours community punishment and a two-month curfew.

Kassaye, a social cocaine user, began dealing in cannabis and then cocaine.

Three months before his 20th birthday he was convicted of having MDMA, receiving a £150 fine.

In December of the same year, 2008, he was convicted of having crack cocaine, for which he was given a conditional discharge for two years.

By this time his drugs business was proving a success and during a good week he was making up to £500 in profit.

In June 2008 he left his family home on the run-down council estate and moved to the stylish Viridian Apartments, where he rented a flat for £1,350-a-month.

In court he claimed to make money from part-time work as a painter and decorator.

Despite moving away from his roots, Kassaye remained in close contact with Soloman Beyene, 25, Courtney Lawrence, 31, and David Joseph, 23, who all grew up on the Lisson Green estate.

There he also met Gregory Jones, 30, and Benjamin McFarlane, 22, who were cleared of involvement part-way through the trial.

It was these close associates that Kassaye called upon when the plan to target Graff was put together.

Although police do not believe he was the prime mover in the plot, he proved to be the lynchpin between the organisers, who remain unidentified, and those who carried out the robbery.

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