Diamond Thieves Make Off With $50-Million Haul

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Feb. 19 2013 12:31 PM

Robbers, Dressed as Police, Stole $50 Million in Diamonds From a Plane in Brussels Last Night

97529731
Antwerp accounts for about 80 percent of rough diamond trade and 50 percent of polished diamond trade

Photo by Julien Warnand/AFP/Getty Images

There's a reason so many heist films center around stealing diamonds: the phrase "diamond heist" all but screams spectacular criminal cleverness. And it seems the latest theft, off of the tarmac at an airport in Brussels, is no exception. 

A group of about eight men apparently managed to steal part of a shipment of diamonds from a passenger plane just about to take off for Zurich, Switzerland last night. Their haul was worth about $50 million, and all police have found so far is a burnt-out vehicle used in the heist, according to the AFP. The diamonds were a mix of rough and cut, and the whole thing took just about five minutes.

Advertisement

The robbers, heavily armed and disguised as police, opened a gap in the security cordon without raising suspicion. Then things get a little less Wizard of OZ at the Witch's castle, as the AFP explains:

They forced their way through security barriers and sped towards a Swiss passenger aircraft about to take off, forcing open the cargo hold to reach gems ... that had already been loaded...The pilot, co-pilot and staff from a Brink's armoured car that transported the gems were held up but "no shots were fired and no-one was injured," [Brussels prosecutors' spokeswoman Anja] Bijnens said of a robbery that was over "within minutes." She said the thieves made off at high speed through the same gap in the security cordon they had opened in front of unsuspecting ground staff and travellers, adding that the passengers on board the plane "saw nothing."

Prosecutors aren't saying to whom the diamonds, previously shipped from Antwerp to the airport by ground transportation, belonged. The Diamond trade in Antwerp accounts for about 80 percent of rough diamond trade and 50 percent of polished diamond trade, according to the New York Times. Antwerp World Diamond Centre spokesperson Caroline De Wolf told the Times that this was one of the biggest heists of Antwerp diamonds in memory, adding: "The fact that this happened is a big problem for us. We have our No. 1 position to defend. Security is obviously very important...We are shocked by the fact this could ever happen. We are all wondering: how is this possible?"

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.