Police hunting £30m diamond plane heist gang arrest 31 people across Europe
Massive operation with suspects held in France, Switzerland and Belgium
Police in Belgium, France and Switzerland claimed to have tracked down the gang behind a spectacular £30m diamond heist, arresting 31 people and seizing large amounts of cash, three months after armed robbers seized jewels from a Swiss plane at Brussels airport.
Belgian state prosecutors said a Frenchman, believed to be one of the robbers, had been apprehended in France on Tuesday, while a further six people were held in Switzerland. In Belgium 24 suspects were rounded up in a police operation.
Brussels prosecutor’s office spokesman Jean-Marc Meilleur told a news conference: “In Switzerland we have found diamonds that we can already say came from the heist, and in Belgium large amounts of money have been found.” Mr Meilleur said the investigation into the robbery was continuing. He said the suspect held in France has a “very heavy judicial background” and that a request had been made for his extradition to Belgium. Ten of the 24 held in Belgium were known criminals.
The robbery on 18 February has been described as one of the most spectacular in recent years. Shortly before 8pm, eight men dressed in police uniforms and toting machine guns drove through a hole cut into the security fence at Brussels airport in a Mercedes van and a car equipped with flashing blue police lights. They made straight for a Swiss passenger plane.
The aircraft, operated by Helvetic Airways, had just been loaded with diamonds by security guards and was due to take off for Zurich. The robbers threatened the security guards with their weapons but no shots were fired. They then climbed into the hold and stole 120 parcels of diamonds which they then loaded into their vehicles.
Driving at high speed, the robbers fled back through the hole in the security fence. The charred shell of the van used for the robbery was discovered outside Brussels the same evening. Police said that the theft was completed in no more than five minutes and that although the plane was full of passengers, none had been aware that the aircraft was being robbed.
The stolen parcels contained both rough and polished diamonds from businesses belonging to the Antwerp World Diamond Centre and were intended for different handlers in Switzerland. Antwerp has been a major diamond centre for centuries, with some eight in every 10 of the world’s rough diamonds and half of all polished diamonds passing through the city. About $200m worth of polished and rough stones pass through the Diamond Centre each day.
However, in recent years Antwerp has become a target for major diamond robberies, and the Diamond Centre has voiced fears that its role as a global leader could be threatened as a result.
In 2003, Antwerp was the scene of one of the biggest diamond robberies in history when thieves raided the Diamond Centre’s high-security vaults and stole precious stones, jewels and gold worth £64m.
The theft was only surpassed by a diamond heist at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport in 2005 when robbers stole some £75m worth of jewels from a cargo terminal.
- 1 Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
- 2 Prince held a Facebook Q&A and this is the only question he answered
- 4 Now we know whose fault it is if you end up being murdered in Thailand
- 5 35,000 walrus gather ashore on north-west Alaska beach 'for a rest'
Snoop Dogg and Jared Leto buy a stake in Reddit as A-list invests $50m
Five-year-old Iris Grace is raising awareness of autism through her extraordinary paintings
Car tax disc changes: Five facts you never knew about your (almost obsolete) tax disc
The Aral Sea: Nasa pictures show how what was once the fourth largest lake in the world has become almost completely dry
Brad Pitt, on the moment he completely lost his temper with Clint Eastwood's son
Exclusive: 'Putin's Russia has been my biggest regret,' says Nato's outgoing Secretary General
The Osborne Ultimatum: Chancellor’s benefits freeze bombshell will affect ten million households
There’s no excuse for Dave Lee Travis’s behaviour, but we need to keep a sense of proportion
Should gay sex be illegal? 16% of Britons think so
Mark Reckless becomes second Tory MP to defect to Ukip in a month
Benefits 'smart cards' plan revealed by Iain Duncan Smith to stop claimants spending welfare money on alcohol
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...
£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...
Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...