The raid at Zaventem international airport is one of the biggest diamond robberies in history. It took a highly-trained professional gang just three minutes to hold up a Swiss passenger jet before escaping into the night.The final destination for the diamonds was Surat, India for cutting and processing by way of Zurich. The phony cops reportedly spoke French and the heist took place so quckily that the passengers on board the flight that was robbed were unaware of what had happened until the flight was cancelled a few minutes later. Despite the fact that the heist was caught by security cameras, investigators say that the footage yielded no substantial clues.
Belgian police were baffled by a robbery that took place with precision, military timing and apparent insider knowledge, allowing the gang to aim for the delivery of a diamond consignment within a 15-minute time window.
Wearing masks, hooded police anoraks and armed with machine guns equipped with laser sights, the robbers struck at 7.47pm local time on Monday night, just before the aircraft they sought was cleared for take-off.
The gang’s target was a Brink’s diamond and jewellery services truck that had just finished loading the 8.05pm Helvetic Airways flight 2L789 bound for Zurich.
For security reasons, the valuable cargo is loaded on the runway just minutes before the plane takes off.
After cutting through a security perimeter fence near the Swiss Fokker 100 airliner, the robbers used two black vehicles, a Mercedes van and an Audi car both equipped with blue flashing police lights, to race across the airport tarmac.
Coming to a halt alongside the Brink’s van and the passenger jet, four armed men left each vehicle and held up the aircraft’s pilot, co-pilot and security guards.
The robbers then forced open its cargo bay doors and took out about 120 packages containing mostly diamonds, which only represented a portion of the cargo, thought to be worth more than £60 million.
After loading the valuables, the eight men fled as security and police alarms were triggered.
The robbers drove at high speed through the same gap in the security cordon that they had opened in front of the aircraft on the runway. The raid took place without a shot being fired. The robbery was so fast that the passengers on board the plane “saw nothing”.
One vehicle, the Mercedes van, was later recovered burnt out nearby. The Audi and the eight men have vanished, triggering a manhunt in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Belgian investigators say that the heist was "so perfect" that it would've been impossible to pull off without inside help.
The robbery comes almost 10 years to the day after a massive and complex diamond heist in Antwerp, where an estimated $100 Million in loose jewelry and diamonds were stolen from a secure vault in the city's diamond district. An Italian safecracker named Leonardo Notarbartolo was the only person in custody for the Feb 16, 2003 heist. Notarbartolo claims he acted with inside information but the heist's take was considerably less than advertised and some of his sources moved valuables out of the vault ahead of the heist but filed insurance claims on them anyway.
Brinks, which is responsible for the handling the diamonds at the Zaventem airport, announced that the robbery would affect their first quarter results. While the diamond district in Antwerp in one of the most secure locales in Europe, the heist at the airport comes as an embarassment to Brinks [NYSE- BCO].