International

31 Suspects In 3 Nations Nabbed In $50 Million Diamond Heist

Diamonds at a workshop in Antwerp. (2009 file photo.) i i
Yves Herman /Reuters /Landov
Diamonds at a workshop in Antwerp. (2009 file photo.)
Yves Herman /Reuters /Landov

Remember that brazen, right-out-of-the-movies diamond heist at Brussels' international airport on Feb. 18?

Now there's word from The Associated Press that "police on Wednesday claimed a major breakthrough in their investigation ... detaining 31 people in a three-nation sweep."

The Guardian adds that "police said the coordinated operations ended with 24 people arrested across Belgium, six in Switzerland, and one in France who was said to have taken part in the eight-man raid at Brussels' main airport." (Note: Though the Guardian uses the word "arrested," the AP says the suspects have been "detained" and that it isn't known yet how many will be formally charged.)

The BBC's account of the crime, one of the biggest diamond heists ever, underscores the dramatic scene that night in Brussels:

"Prosecutors described the thieves as 'professionals.' They had dressed as police, wore masks and were well armed. They forced their way through security barriers and drove towards [a] Helvetic Airways plane, forcing open the cargo hold to reach gems that had already been loaded. They snatched 120 packages before escaping through the same hole in the fence.

"Prosecutors said the whole operation took only about five minutes, no shots were fired and no-one was hurt."

According to the AP, "police say they have proof that diamonds found in Switzerland were part of the cache that was spirited away. ... The stolen parcels contained both rough and polished stones. The trail ran dry until the surprise announcement on Wednesday."

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