Eight robbers in two vans with flashing blue lights broke through a security fence at Antwerp airport recently and stole, according to some reports, 30 million dollars worth of diamonds from a Swiss plane in five minutes and speed off through the same hole in the security fence.
This quick and efficient heist has caused serious doubts on the security at Antwerp Airport which has a highly regarded reputation according to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC). AWDC stated that the ’stolen diamonds were both polished and rough.’ It also indicated it ‘choose to transport goods via airplane, precisely because of the safe and controlled nature of this means of transportation.’ However, this did not stop the quick and effective theft.
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) issued a statement; ‘Armed robbers took off with around US$ 50 million worth in diamonds, both rough and polished stones’. In the statement it was also added, ‘We find it hard to understand how a robbery such as yesterday’s heist could take place. We are currently awaiting the results of the investigation but we do fear the damage for Antwerp, the world’s leading trade centre, is significant. We choose to transport goods via airplane, precisely because of the safe and controlled nature of this means of transportation. We do hope additional security measures can be put in place in order to safeguard a fluent and safe transport of diamonds.’
This is not the first time a theft of diamonds in the millions has been heisted from Antwerp. The Antwerp Diamond Heist, dubbed the “heist of the century”, was a theft of loose diamonds, gold, and other jewellery valued at more than $100 million made during the weekend of February 15–16, 2003, in the Antwerp Diamond Centre, located in the centre of the gem district in Antwerp, Belgium. The Antwerp centre heist was the largest diamond heist in history until surpassed by the Schiphol Airport diamond heist on 25 February 2005 and estimated at $118 million.
Still, 50 million dollars is not to be sniffed at.
Belgium Police are searching for 8 masked gunmen but are unlikely to find then as it is a sure bet they have removed their masks and melted into the populace of Antwerp and possibly beyond.
The Brussels airport heist has raised vital questions on how the security fence could have been breached so fast but a Jan Van Der Crujsse, an airport spokesperson said the ‘gunmen made a hole in the perimeter fence but could nott explain how the area could be so vulnerable to theft. “We abide by the most stringent rules,” he said.
The Switzerland-bound plane the diamonds were loaded on to at Brussels international airport.
According to the Guardian, “The men, who were armed with machine guns and dressed in police uniforms, broke through a hole they had made in the airport security fence in two vehicles, a Mercedes van and a car, and they made straight for a Swiss passenger plane operated by Helvetic Airways.
Staff from a high-security van operated by Brinks had just finished unloading the diamonds that were to be transported on the plane bound for Zurich.
The men flashed machine guns but no shots were fired as they took 120 parcels from the plane’s hold, stacking them in their vehicles. They fled at high speed through the hole in the security fence. The van believed to have been used in the raid was later found burnt out just outside Brussels.”
Ine Van Wymersch, spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor, said: “They were well prepared. There were passengers on the plane but they saw nothing of what was going on.”
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre, a trade body for Antwerp diamond businesses, estimated the value at close to £30m. “What we are talking about is obviously a gigantic sum,” its spokeswoman Caroline De Wolf told the Belgian VRT TV network. “In any case, it’s one of the biggest robberies we’ve seen,” she told Associated Press.
Credit: Guardian graphics