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Sri Lanka cops: Tourist swallows $13,600 diamond at gem fair

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A Sri Lankan security official and uniformed police escort a Chinese national accused of stealing a diamond by swallowing it at Sri Lanka's main gem and jewellery exhibition in Colombo on Wednesday.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- Sri Lankan police arrested a Chinese tourist suspected of swallowing a diamond worth $13,600 on Wednesday at the island nation's biggest international gem and jewelry exhibition.

Chow Cheng, 32, is believed to have swallowed the diamond as he inspected it at the exhibition, attended by buyers from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, India and Europe, police said.

"His intention was to steal it," police spokesman Ajith Rohana told Reuters. "The x-ray shows the diamond is in his throat."

The Associated Press reported that the diamond was 1.5 carats.

Suresh Christopher Wijekoon, owner of the exhibition stall, said Chow had tried to switch the original diamond with a synthetic one.

"He realized that I noticed it. Then he immediately swallowed it," Wijekoon told Reuters.

Take a look at some striking images from Sri Lanka on NBC's PhotoBlog

The man was taken to a hospital where he was given laxatives, an unnamed police officer told the AFP news agency, according to the BBC.

The diamond's owner, named by the BBC's Charles Haviland as Suresh de Silva, said the swallowed stone may have been the fake one, and that tests would have to be carried out to confirm which one it was.

De Silva also said that the suspect had an accomplice who tried to create a distraction, the BBC reported. It was not immediately clear what the attempted distraction was.

According to de Silva, swallowing a diamond is dangerous because its point can damage a person's intestines, the BBC reported.

The Indian Ocean island is famed for its blue sapphires, diamonds and a jewelry industry that accounted for $532 million of its export revenue in 2011.

The AP reported that the jewelry exhibition where the incident took place was called Facets Sri Lanka 2012.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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