Arrests made in Belgian diamond heist
May 8, 2013
Authorities arrested 31 people in three European countries between May 7 and 8 in connection to a spectacular heist that ended with the theft of over $50 million worth of polished and uncut diamonds earlier in the year. According to reports, 24 people were arrested in Belgium, six were arrested in Switzerland and one person was taken into custody in France. CNN reports that some of the stolen diamonds have also been located.
A stunningly bold theft
On February 18, eight masked and heavily armed men disguised as police officers cut a hole in the fence at Brussels Airport in Belgium and then intercepted a passenger plane that was also carrying a large cache of Antwerp diamonds to Switzerland. Holding passengers and crew hostage with machine guys, the gang unloaded 120 boxes of diamonds and absconded with them, all under ten minutes. The total value of the jewels was estimated to be around $50 million. The operation was so smoothly and quickly accomplished that many passengers reported being unaware a robbery was in progress while they waited to take-of, reports the Christian Science Monitor.
"Everyone was fascinated, but of course the jewelry workers are the most interested," a woman in an antique jewelry shop in who wished to remain nameless told the news source.
A spectacular conclusion
Nearly all suspected taken into custody in the case are accused of either helping plan the raid on the diamonds or helping to dispose of the operation's spoils after the fact. Only one of the 31 arrested has been implicated in the robbery itself, he is a French national whose extradition has already been requested by the Belgian government.
"It's the only person that we can say at this stage they could have participated in the events on the tarmac," said the prosecutor's spokesman Jean-Marc Meilleur, according to Reuters.
Hundreds of police in the Belgian operation spread out across the country-side and arrested two dozen suspects, almost half of whom were known criminal elements in the country
Swiss raids recovered a large number of the diamonds, as well a significant amount of cash, authorities in Geneva told The Agence France-Presse.
"In Switzerland, we have found diamonds that we can already say are coming from the heist, and in Belgium large amounts of money have been found. And the investigation is still ongoing," said Meilleur, reports the Washington Post.