Diamonds in Belgium's Brussels Airport were stolen Monday, and the thieves managed to get away with about $50 million in both rough and polished diamonds. The jewels were next to a passenger and within three minutes, the robbers were in and out with military precision.
The diamonds were headed from Brussels, Belgium to Zurich, Switzerland when the thieves struck, cutting a hole through the airport fence and driving two SUVs to the cargo truck by the passenger plane. After the robbery, they drove back out through the same hole. Authorities found the two black trucks they were driving in burnt a short distance away from the airport.
"This was a very precise, almost military-organized and well-executed robbery," Jan Van der Cruysse, a spokesman for the Brussels Airport, told CNN.
The men wore outfits similar to authorities' uniforms, Ine Van Wymersch of the Public Prosecutor's Office in Brussels said in a news conference. They also used police lights on their vehicles to through security off. Although all eight men were armed, not one single shot was fired during the heist and the pilot, co-pilot, and transport security guard were left unharmed.
"They tried to pass themselves off as police officers," Anja Bijnens, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, explained to the Associated Press.
The robbery stunned Antwerp, the world's diamond-cutting capital, as it lies only 25 miles from Brussels. The $50 million stolen could harm the business of Antwerp's Diamond center, which brings through $200 million in both polished and rough diamonds almost daily.
"What we're talking about is obviously a gigantic sum," Caroline De Wolf of the Antwerp World Diamond Center told De Standaard. "This is causing quite some unrest. … This is worrying it terms of competitiveness, since other diamond centers are ready to pounce and take over our position."
The security breach also worried officials, who were surprised the airport could be robbed so easily. The airport police, Brussels Airport Company, and Belgian federal police are all responsible for security, and yet the thieves were not intercepted before escaping with 120 pieces of cargo from the hold.
"At the time of the heist eight airport police officers were on duty, but only two were authorized to patrol and secure the fence, which is 22 kilometers [13.6 miles] long," Ben Weyts of the Belgian parliament told a Dutch radio station.
"When you can just drive a car onto the tarmac by destroying a fence, that's a bit too easy," he continued, adding that despite the robbery, air transport is still "one of the safest ways" to transport diamonds.