Belgian police are currently looking for eight masked gunmen who pulled off a massive heist at Brussels' international airport. According to police records, the gang stole millions of pounds worth of expensive jewels from a parked security van that was loading the cargo of a plane bound for Switzerland.
Just before 8 p.m. on Monday, the gang struck the security van. The heavily armed group men drove through the airport security fence using two different vehicles, one Mercedes van and one passenger car, then made a swift move toward the Brink's secured delivery van.
The Brink’s employees were loading safes full of diamonds onto the cargo hold of a Swiss plane bound for Zurich. The eight gunmen went quickly about filling the two vehicles with the safes, then escaped using the same broken security barrier they entered through. No gunshots were ever fired or exchanged. Lasting just a short three minutes, the raid was over before anyone realized what had happened. After the heist, a van was found smoldering nearby.
The exact value of the diamonds, which are believed to come from Antwerp, is still uncertain. But estimates put their value at around $50 million.
"What we are talking about is obviously a gigantic sum," Caroline De Wolf of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre told the Belgian VRT network.
A representative for the airport, Jan Van Der Crujsse, said the gunmen made entry through a hole in the perimeter fence, then drove straight up to the Swiss plane, which was preparing to take off. The gunmen flashed their weapons to the surrounding employees and then proceeded to take the boxes of diamonds from the cargo hold.
Van Der Crujsse could not explain why the area would be so open and vulnerable to theft. "We abide by the most stringent rules," he said.
The Swiss flight, which is operated by Helvetic Airways, was immediately cancelled. Swiss, an affiliate of Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa AG, declined to comment on the heist, stating there was an ongoing judicial investigation.
The airlines themselves or an external insurance company usually handles the insurance for air transport. It is normally purchased for a relatively cheap price, as it is considered to be the safest way of transporting such small items with a high-value according to logistics experts.
Unlike a car or a truck, thieves cannot attack airplanes once it is rolling. In fact, they are considered to be very safe before departure and after arrival, as the plane is always within the confines of a normally secure airport.
Around ten years ago, Antwerp, the world capital of diamond cutting, was the location of what was undoubtedly one of the biggest diamond heists in world history. The robbers took precious stones, jewels and gold from several high-security vaults at the Antwerp Diamond Centre in 2003.