Brussels Airport diamond heist
Brussels Airport runway
|Time||19:40 CET (estimated)|
|Date||18 February 2013|
|Location||Brussels Airport, Belgium|
|Participants||Eight masked men|
|Outcome||Approximately US$50 million in gems stolen|
On 18 February 2013, eight masked gunmen in two cars with police markings stole approximately US$50 million (€38 million, GB£33 million) worth of diamonds from a Swiss-bound Fokker 100 operated by Helvetic Airways on the apron at Brussels Airport, Belgium, just before 20:00 CET. The heist was accomplished without a shot being fired.
The robbers hid in a construction site outside the airport prior to the robbery. They were armed with Kalashnikov type assault rifles and dressed as police officers. Entering the airport through a hole they created in the airport security fence, the robbers drove on the property with two vehicles, a Mercedes van and an Audi, both of which were black with flashing blue police lights. They drove straight to the airplane where the gems were being transferred from a Brink's armored van, which had driven from Antwerp, onto the Fokker 100 twin engine jet Swiss Flight LX789, which was bound for Zurich.
The time period between the loading procedure and the moment the plane started to move to take off would only have lasted "15 minutes" according to Caroline De Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre. De Wolf stated that the window for opportunity was so small that the perpetrators must have known ahead of time about the transfer procedures and timing.
The robbers stopped the plane and then brandished their guns, stopping the pilots and transport security. The Brussels prosecutors' office described the weapons used as "like Kalashnikovs" most likely the Galil. The robbers never dropped their weapons. The robbers loaded 130 bags into their cars and drove off, but left behind some gems in their hurry.
The whole robbery took about 20 minutes. The robbery did not appear to disturb any of the passengers. In fact, the passengers did not know that anything had happened until they were told to disembark because the flight had been cancelled. The van believed to be used in the robbery was later found abandoned and burned.
Belgian prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said the thieves "were very, very professional". French airport security consultant Doron Levy said, "I am certain this was an inside job", adding the heist was "incredibly audacious and well organized" and that big jobs like that were often so well organized the thieves "probably know the employees by name".
Several arrests were made on May 8, 2013 during raids in Belgium. About 200 police officers searched 40 apartments, mostly in Brussels, and secured some of the haul. On July 4, Marc Bertoldi, the principal suspect, was extradited from France to Belgium.
- Chrisafis, Angelique (19 February 2013). "Diamond heist at Brussels airport nets gang up to £30m in gems". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Casert, Raf (19 February 2013). "Diamond heist hits Swiss plane on Brussels tarmac". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 21 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- "Brussels diamond robbery nets 'gigantic' haul". BBC. 19 February 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- Higgins, Andrew (19 February 2013). "Brazen Jewel Robbery at Brussels Airport Nets $50 Million in Diamonds". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 February 2013.