Thieves in $50M Diamond Heist Dressed as Police

Belgians fear speedy airport theft will ruin reputation
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2013 3:53 AM CST
$50M Heist Shakes Diamond Industry
If the robbers decide to return through the same fence, they will now find this concrete block in the way.   (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

There have been no arrests in the $50M diamond heist at Brussels' international airport yesterday, but a few more details have emerged: The eight gunmen removed 120 packages from the plane's hold, said a rep for the Belgian public prosecutor. The thieves were apparently clad in what the AP describes as "dark police clothing"—and speaking of police, there were just two tasked with patrolling the 13.6-mile fence the thieves busted through in two black cars with blue police lights flashing. According to local media reports, the jewels taken were "rough diamonds," which are tricky to trace, making them easier to unload on the black market.

The theft is reverberating through the diamond industry centered in nearby Antwerp, the Christian Science Monitor reports. A decade ago, thieves made off with an estimated $100 million in gems after disabling an alarm at Antwerp's Diamond Center, and yesterday's incident is another blow to a trade that prides itself on security, the AP reports. "This is causing quite some unrest," a Diamond Center spokeswoman says. "It was incredible how easily it all went. This is worrying in terms of competitiveness, since other diamond centers are ready to pounce and take over our position." The city imported $12.9 billion of polished diamonds last year and exported $13.2 billion. (Read more diamond stories.)

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