Four people have been arrested by Belgian police in connection with biggest diamond theft in the history of Antwerp, the diamond-cutting capital of the world. According to United Press International (UPI), the arrest of the suspects–a Dutch woman and three Italian men–was announced by the city prosecutor’s office on Feb. 25, a week after the weekend theft.
The theft occurred on the weekend of Feb. 15-16 when thieves emptied 123 of 160 diamond vaults in the Antwerp Diamond Center. The value of the stolen goods was still unknown as of Feb. 25. However, “We are certainly talking about many millions [of dollars],” the Associated Press was told by Youri Steverlynck, a spokesman for the Diamond High Council (HRD), which oversees and represents the Belgian diamond industry. Authorities said the loss would certainly exceed a $4.5 million robbery at the ADC in 1994.
More than 50% of the world’s diamond production–including rough and polished, gem and industrial quality–passes through Antwerp. The ADC houses dozens of diamond and gem companies, and diamond cutters and dealers traditionally store their wares in the maximum-security vaults of the ADC, in the heart of the heart of Antwerp’s historic two-square-mile diamond district.
The district is the best-protected area in Belgium, and the ADC the most secure within the district. The ADC’s extensive security precautions include surveillance cameras everywhere, special passes for entry, and round-the-clock guards by the basement room where the vaults are located. Yet, somehow, the robbers “knew very well how to avoid security cameras and alarms,” said Steverlynck..
There were no signs of forced entry in the break-in, nor was were any alarms sounded. In addition, says UPI, some security camera tapes are missing, leading authorities to suspect the thieves may have had inside help.