Five-Minute Jewel Heist Nets $50 Million

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The New York Times explains how eight men managed to slip into a secure airport in Belgium and, without a fight, make off with bags full of diamonds…

“There is a gap of only a few minutes” between the loading of valuable cargo and the moment the plane starts to move, said Caroline De Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, an industry body that promotes the diamond business in Belgium. “The people who did this knew there was going to be this gap and when.”

The thieves showed up Monday evening in two vehicles dressed as police, armed with automatic weapons. They ordered workers on the ground to unload the diamond packets they’d just put in the cargo hold, which had been delivered by an armored van.

While they dropped a few, in under five minutes they drove off with at least $50 million worth. (Some local media reported higher figures, but that’s the official estimate from the Antwerp Diamond Centre.)

The passengers were already on board and didn’t have a clue anything was going on until the airline announced the flight was canceled.

Security experts are confident the heist was an inside job, based on the level of coordination and information the thieves apparently had. There have been no arrests, and the only thing left behind (besides dropped diamonds) was a burned-out white van.

A Brussels Airport spokesman said the airport was quite secure from would-be terrorist bombers, but not equipped to handle “commando-style raids by heavily armed criminals.”

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