Police Arrest 31 People Connected to $50 Million Belgian Diamond Heist

Police arrested 31 people connected to the "highly professional" diamond heist at the Brussels Airport three months ago that resulted in $50 million of stolen loot. Police say they seized stolen diamonds, luxury cars, and large sums of money from the 31 arrested.

The robbery at the Brussels-Zaventem international airport on February 18th was one of the biggest diamond heists in history. It was a nearly perfect crime; the heist was completed within three minutes, using two cars, hurting no one, and resulting in $50 million worth of uncut, unregistered diamonds.

This precision hold-up was thought to have been completed with a gang of eight. The group wore masks, hooded police anoraks, and carried machine guns with laser lighting. They arrived through an unlocked access gate and drove through a relatively unguarded airport construction site. At 7:47 P.M. local time, they stalked a Brink's diamond truck as it finished unloading onto Helvetic Airways Flight LX789, heading for Zurich. They pilfered 121 packets of diamonds from the hold. The robbery was so fast, passengers on the plane said they "saw nothing." The robbers then took off in two black vehicles, a Mercedes van and an Audi both decorated with police lights, which they flashed as they drove across the tarmac.

One of the men detained in France is thought to be the organizer of the armed group that pilfered the gems from the hold of a passenger jet. Six people were arrested in Switzerland and 24 suspects have been detained in Belgium. Jean-Marc Meilleur of the Brussels prosecutor's office says that the man in France is "the only person that we can say at this stage they could have participated in the events on the tarmac. Among those arrested in Belgium, at least 10 are known to the court, including for armed attacks. They are part of the Brussels criminal underworld."

The stolen diamonds were coming from Antwerp, the capital of diamond cutting, which sends approximately $203 million worth of jewels through the Brussels airport each day. Ten years ago, robbers stole $100 million of gems and uncut stones from Antwerp, an even larger jewel heist than this one. Though Brinks said this thievery would likely damage its profits, it is likely that the Brussels airport covered the cost.

[image via AVprophoto/Shutterstock]