Diamonds and jewelry worth nearly $100 million hijacked at Amsterdam airport

Thieves hijacked an armored truck carrying diamonds and jewelry from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport Friday and escaped with their haul, which is said to be nearly $100 million, news reports say.

Dutch police at Schiphol told the British newspaper, the Guardian: “A few minutes after 10 a.m., we got a message that an armoured KLM security van which had valuable gems in it was robbed. The vehicle was taken by the gang, who drove it out of the airport and abandoned it in the nearby town of Hoofddorp. They stole the contents.”

Unconfirmed media reports place the value of haul at nearly $100 million, making it one of the biggest robberies in history. The van was loaded with precious stones and jewelry, including a $2.3 million consignment from a London firm, the Guardian reports.

KLM told the Guardian that one of its security vans was stopped on the cargo ramp, away from the plane yesterday morning. “Some of the shipment was left in the van when the robbers fled,” said a KLM spokesman, Frank Houben. “The rest of it is missing. Diamonds are pretty valuable. We don’t know exactly how much but it’s a very large amount. It was certainly well into the millions.”

Schiphol police told the BBC that the robbery happened just before the “high value goods” were going to be loaded onto the plane and that there were plenty of witnesses.

“A lot of people witnessed the robbery, both on the loading bay platform inside the airport and in Hoofddorp,” a police spokeswoman told the Guardian. “It was a very threatening situation and we are talking to the two guards who were in the van when it was robbed. No one was hurt in the attack.”

The robbers were heavily armed, a source close to the investigation told Reuters. However, police have not confirmed what, if any, weapons were used. News reports say no was injured.

The cargo, on its way back from a jewelry fair in Austin, Texas, was bound for Antwerp, Europe’s diamond capital.

A team of 25 detectives is investigating the robbery, the BBC reports.

Michel Einhorn of Cool Diamonds in north London lost $2.3 million of his family firm’s stock in the raid, which consisted of loose and cut diamonds, in a special Arges cut, ranging from a 0.5-ct. to 5-cts.

“Diamonds are actually very light, so they are packed in large containers with heavy packaging to make them more difficult to steal,” Einhorn told the newspaper. “This gang didn’t get up this morning and decide to rob a van full of gems. This must have been in the planning for months. But no one was harmed and we are 100% insured so we will not be losing any sleep. All our diamonds are marked so they cannot be passed off to legitimate dealers. They are laser inscribed so they can be identified even if they are recut.

“There are always criminals who will buy stolen diamonds but I suspect they will struggle to get rid of a haul this huge. It’s simply too big a coup to pull off.”

Einhorn added, “There have been big raids on safety deposit boxes in Antwerp and Knightsbridge. But this is the stuff of movies.”

Arges diamonds are a special cut developed recently by one of the industry’s best known figures, Gabi Tolkowsky, the Guardian reports. The method is supposed to enhance luminosity and brilliance.

The largest ever gem theft, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was from the Antwerp Diamond Centre two years ago. Raiders emptied 123 of the 160 vaults over the weekend from a strongroom. The loss was not discovered until Monday. The thieves’ haul was estimated to have been worth $100 million.

In Britain, a gang of south London criminals nearly succeeded in snatching jewels worth $671.5 million from London’s Millennium Dome. Their operation was foiled by the police.

Kris Hollington, author of Diamond Geezers, the story of the Dome robbery, who is writing a book on airport diamond robberies, said 5% of diamonds are sold on the black market and that there were always avenues through unscrupulous dealers.

“You can’t rule out British involvement but Serbs or Croats would be top of my list of suspects. They would head to the Far East, most likely Singapore, to get rid of them,” Hollington told the newspaper.

Peter Scott, an infamous thief who stole $3.8 million worth of jewelry from Sophia Loren in 1960, told the newspaper that the robbers would have tremendous difficulty getting rid of the gems.

“Such a huge quantity of stones would have to be sold back into the trade and it’s highly unlikely anyone would have the money, let alone be willing to take on diamonds with this history,” he said. “Among Ms Loren’s jewels were three necklaces – diamond and emerald, diamond and sapphire, diamond and ruby, which were all broken up and sold for a fraction of their value.”