$ 50 million diamond heist at Brussels airport

Updated 20 February 2013
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$ 50 million diamond heist at Brussels airport

BRUSSELS: Heavily armed robbers disguised as cops made off with $ 50 million (37 million euros) worth of diamonds in a spectacular heist on the tarmac at Brussels airport, prosecutors and diamond dealers said yesterday.
The Monday night robbery at Zaventem airport just before 8 p.m. (1900 GMT) was “one of the biggest” ever, said a spokeswoman for the Antwerp World Diamond Center (AWDC), the global dealers’ syndicate.
The raid saw a gang of eight hooded thieves pull up on the runway in two black vehicles with blue police-like markings, Brussels prosecutors’ spokeswoman Anja Bijnens told a press conference.
They forced open security barriers and sped toward a Swiss passenger aircraft about to take off on the runway, forcing open the cargo hold to reach gems that had already been loaded, she said.
Bijnens said the thieves were wearing police uniforms and carrying machine guns, adding: “They wanted to pass themselves off as cops.” They seized at least 120 packages, which was only a partial haul from the shipment, she said.
Amazingly, “no shots were fired and no-one was injured,” Bijnens said of a robbery that was over “within minutes.” She said the thieves made off at high speed through the same gap in the security cordon they had opened in front of unsuspecting ground staff and travelers, adding that the passengers on board the plane “saw nothing” and that the aircraft, bound for Zurich, did not leave Brussels.
The Swiss air company said the plane was on a regular flight operated by its partner Helvetic Airways.
According to the AWDC, the global diamond business is worth more than $60 billion each year.
Some $200 million worth of stones move in and out of Antwerp every day, the spokeswoman added.
The gems taken “included rough stones as well as cut diamonds from Antwerep that were being transported to Zurich,” the AWDC spokeswoman said.
“It is worrying that something like this can take place at the airport, that an armed gang can get to the tarmac,” said the AWDC spokeswoman.
Neither the prosecutor’s office nor the AWDC official would give any details as to whom the shipment belonged. The prosecutor’s office said the packages contained mainly diamonds.
The AWDC said the haul was worth $50 million dollars.
One of the vehicles was found afterwards completely burnt out near the airport, the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said.
A specialist Belgian prosecutors unit dealing with organized crime is “pursuing all lines of enquiry,” Bijnens said, and is collaborating also with Swiss authorities.
“This was not a random robbery,” she stressed. “It was well-prepared — these were professionals.” Belgian Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom was on hand at the airport as the investigation gathered pace.
There are more than 4,500 diamond dealers in Antwerp, the hub for a worldwide industry going back at least 500 years, the AWDC said.


Toronto: Bodies and debris scattered over mile-long strip

Updated 24 April 2018
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Toronto: Bodies and debris scattered over mile-long strip

  • At least 10 people have died in the attack officials called “deliberate” but not linked to national security concerns
  • Toronto police have the suspect after a confrontation

TORONTO: The crime scene seems to go on forever, a taped off stretch of street scattered with bodies under orange sheets, urban debris and a pair of abandoned shoes.

Toronto police have arrived, and a suspect is under lock and key, but no one yet knows why the driver of a white rental van spread death and destruction under the warm spring sunshine.

“I heard screaming, yelling. I turned back and saw this truck going that way. He was going in and out, back and forth, zigzagging. He just kept on going,” said 42-year-old Rocco Cignielli.

There was nothing the customer service worker could do. Emergency services were on the scene quickly, but in some cases their efforts were in vain.

At least 10 people have died in the attack officials called “deliberate” but not linked to national security concerns.

“I saw there were people lying on the ground. I saw they were doing heart compression, and I saw two people dying right here in front of me,” Cignielli told AFP, pointing at the bodies.

It was shortly after 1 p.m. (1700 GMT) on a working Monday when the speeding van hit this commercial thoroughfare in a district of high-rise residences in the north of Canada’s biggest city.

A pale but cheery sun shone after a long and grim final winter stretch even by the region’s standards. Many local people were out and about.

Nana Agyeman Badu, a 56-year-old taxi driver, saw the van heading south toward central Toronto, where ministers from the G7 world powers were holding a security conference. Then the van swerved onto the sidewalk.

“I thought maybe he was making a delivery. But I was thinking, ‘Why would he drive in the pedestrian walkway like that?’ Very fast. Then I saw he had already run over some people,” the witness said.

“A lady was walking toward the car close to a bus shelter. The truck pinged the lady through the bus shelter and she fell back and all the broken glass fell onto her,” he added.

“I stopped and ran out to help her. The truck continued going and going and going.”

The truck smashed a yellow fire hydrant, a few newspaper dispensers and there, a bit further, lie a pair of sneakers.

“They belong to a victim,” a police officer said.

Some in a crowd that gathered by the police tape as dozens of rescue vehicles were deployed were dumbfounded. “It is a dangerous crossroads,” one woman suggested.

“Oh, it was no accident,” declared another passerby.