February 27, 2003
Arrests Made in Antwerp Diamond Heist
Authorities arrested three Italian men and a Dutch woman in connection with the plundering of 123 maximum-security vaults in Anterp's diamond district, likely the biggest heist ever in the diamond-cutting capital of the world, police say. Despite the arrests, none of the missing stones have been recovered, reports the Associated Press.
The four suspects were arrested over the weekend in connection with the heist at the Diamond Center, where sellers and dealers keep their wares, and were put in solitary confinement until a court decides on their continued detention on Feb. 27, said Leen Nuyts, a magistrate at the prosecutor's office in Antwerp.
Thieves cleared out more than two-thirds of the 160 vaults during the weekend of Feb. 15 at the Diamond Center, a trade office in the heart of the old diamond district where police and surveillance cameras are highly visible.
Nuyts said the four suspects were arrested based on "developments in the ongoing investigation," but she declined to give more information. Belgian daily newspaper De Morgen says the four rented office space in the building where the vaults are kept only a few months ago.
Even 10 days after the theft, police could not establish a full estimate of the losses, since many of the traders and cutters who were abroad had not provided information on the content of their vaults, says Nuyts. The Diamond High Council, an industry association, says the total theft certainly reaches into many millions of dollars.
How the robbers entered the Diamond Center remains a mystery. Surveillance cameras cover the building, and special passes are required to gain access. Round-the-clock guards protect the room with the vaults. There was no sign of a break-in at the entrance or the cellar. Police suspect inside cooperation.