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Gangsters close diamond exhibition

Actress Sophie Marceau holds the De Beers Millennium Star in a 1999 file photo.



LONDON, England -- The world's biggest exhibition of priceless diamonds has been forced to close after police uncovered a plot to steal the jewels.

The display, which has attracted more than 70,000 visitors since it opened in at the Natural History Museum in London in July, was closed with immediate effect on Wednesday -- three months earlier than planned.

Scotland Yard said it had received intelligence that a criminal gang was planning to target the exhibition.

The display included the De Beers Millennium Star -- a 203-carat pear-shaped diamond which was a target for thieves in a foiled robbery attempt on the Millennium Dome in 2000.

The diamond's appearance at the museum was the first time it had been seen in public since then.

Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum, told the UK Press Association: "Since we began planning this exhibition, we have followed police advice to the letter in terms of ensuring the security of our staff, our visitors, and the exhibition specimens.

"That advice changed on the afternoon of Tuesday November 22. It indicated a heightened criminal risk to the exhibition.

"The museum's priority is the safety and security of our visitors and staff.

"Based on police advice, the only responsible course of action in this situation was to close the exhibition."

Other gems included in the popular exhibition were the Steinmetz Pink, the world's largest pink flawless diamond; the Ocean Dream, the world's largest naturally occurring deep blue-green diamond; and the Incomparable, which at 407.48 carats is the third largest cut diamond in existence.

Also on display was Scott Henshall's Spiderman dress, made almost entirely of diamonds, which was worn by singer Samantha Mumba at the premiere of Spiderman II.

The tiara worn by Catherine Zeta Jones on her wedding day was also on display.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Officers from the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime Directorate have been in consultation with the management of the Natural History Museum regarding the ongoing exhibition they have there.

"We have received information that leads us to believe that criminals were planning to target the exhibition.

"For the safety of staff, visitors and the exhibition specimens, we have advised the management to close the exhibition with immediate effect."

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