A breakthrough has been made in the headline-making Feb. 18 $50 million Brussels airport diamond robbery, resulting in 27 arrests and the recovery of some of the stolen diamonds, according to a statement from Brussels police.
The arrests include at least one individual, nabbed in France, believed to be on the tarmac for the robbery.
Twenty-four more individuals, between 30 and 50 years old, were also arrested in Belgium, with 10 of them believed to be directly involved in the crime.
A release from Geneva prosecutors said that police have also interviewed eight people, including a businessman and lawyer, who are the only two currently detained. They are accused of receiving stolen property and obstructing justice.
In addition, police have seized more than $100,000 in cash and diamonds, some of which have been linked to the stolen parcels. The haul’s full value is still being calculated.
The investigation, which has involved 250 police conducting more than 40 house raids, is still ongoing, the Belgium statement added.
John Kennedy, president of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance, says he is not surprised how quickly these arrests were made.
“Once you get so many people involved in a crime—eight people on the ground and others in the planning—it becomes far more difficult to keep it under wraps,” he says. “I was very optimistic that there would be a break in the case because there were too many people involved.”
“The breakthrough in the investigation is very good news,” said Ari Epstein, CEO of the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, in a statement.
The spectacular Feb. 18 theft involved eight thieves posing as police officers who slid through a pre-cut hole in the Brussels airport fence, and then drove onto the tarmac with two cars. They then held up the plane staff loading the goods onto an airplane, and seized some $50 million worth of rough and polished diamonds. The theft lasted three to five minutes, and no injuries were sustained.
While authorities immediately suspected an “inside job,” it was not clear if that theory had been borne out.