Wednesday, February 20, 2013

$50 Million in Diamonds Stolen in Brash Heist at Brussels Airport

Someone on Twitter yesterday snarked that this had to be an inside job.

And amazingly, it's the front-page story at this morning's Wall Street Journal, "Gunmen Waylay Jet, Swipe Diamond Trove":

BRUSSELS—As 29 passengers sat aboard a Zurich-bound flight here Monday evening waiting for the last bags to be loaded, gunmen wearing police uniforms raced up to the plane and stole more than 120 packages of diamonds worth at least $50 million, and possibly much more.

Some of the eight masked robbers stood in front of the Helvetic Airways jet plane with machine guns, pointing laser sights at the pilots, while others forced ground workers to open the plane's cargo doors, according to Belgian prosecutors and other people familiar with the events.

The thieves snatched the parcels of jewels and sped off in minutes without firing a shot, said Belgian prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch. Many travelers on the plane and inside the terminal didn't know what was happening. "It was well-prepared and very professional," she said.

The theft rattled Antwerp, a world hub for trading in gems and precious metals. Nearly all of those valuables pass through Brussels Airport.

The thieves appeared to have detailed information about both the cargo and operations at the airport, and likely had help from people at the airport, according to an aviation-security specialist knowledgeable about the incident. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, international law-enforcement officials have been concerned about security threats posed by people working inside airports and other sensitive facilities.

he brazen heist is Europe's highest-value airport-tarmac holdup in a decade, aviation-security exports said. Authorities on Tuesday didn't detail exactly what was stolen, so estimates of the value of the goods varied. The declared value of the stolen diamonds, a mix of rough and polished stones, was about $50 million, according to a spokeswoman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, a coordinator for local diamond traders. The aviation-security specialist knowledgeable about what happened said the jewels could be worth up to $350 million.

Ms. Van Wymersch, the prosecutor, declined to place a value on the stolen gems.
That is rad.