Helvetic Airways targeted in 'gigantic' diamond heist

7:26 AM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

Brussels Airport and a Swiss airline are at the center of a multi-million dollar international diamond heist that's in the news this morning (Feb. 19).

Police say the theft occurred late Monday at Brussels Airport. According to authorities, a group eight men cut a hole in a perimeter security fence, drove out to the tarmac and removed diamonds worth tens of millions of dollars from the cargo of a Helvetic Airways' Fokker 100 jet operating for Swiss International Airlines.

"There was no shooting and nobody was injured," the operating company for Brussels Airport says in a statement to FlightGlobal.com. "This lasted only a few minutes and, after that, they left the airport domain through the damaged fence."

The airport tells FlightGlobal.com that the incident has "had no impact on the continuity of [other] air traffic."

As for the heist, Brussels prosecutor's spokeswoman Anja Bijnens tells The Associated Press that the armed and masked men used two vehicles in their Monday raid.

Brussels Airport spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse tells Bloomberg News the diamond thieves apparently were efficient, needing just three minutes at the plane in an operation that took only 11 minutes total.
"It was very well organized, very swift, efficient and well planned," Van der Cruysse tells Bloomberg News in a telephone interview.

Police say they found a burnt-out vehicle near the airport later on Monday, but they were still looking for more clues.

The stolen diamonds could be worth as much as $50 million, Caroline De Wolf of the Antwerp World diamond Centre.

"What we are talking about is obviously a gigantic sum," AP quotes De Wolf as saying to Belgium's VRT network.

Bloomberg writes "Antwerp, Belgium's second-largest city, is the biggest trading hub for rough diamonds, handling four-fifths of the world's trade." Antwerp is about 30 miles from Brussels Airport.



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