Belgian police are searching for eight masked gunmen who took less than five minutes to pull off one of the most spectacular diamond heists in recent years, stealing precious stones worth about £30m (US$50m) from the hold of a Swiss-bound plane on a Brussels runway.
The biggest diamond theft in recent years took place at Brussels airport just before 8pm on Monday night, the prosecutor’s office said.
The men, who were armed with machine guns and dressed in police uniforms, broke through a hole they had made in the airport security fence in two vehicles, a Mercedes van and a car, and they made straight for a Swiss passenger plane operated by Helvetic Airways.
Staff from a high-security van operated by Brinks had just finished unloading the diamonds that were to be transported on the plane bound for Zurich.
The men flashed machine guns but no shots were fired as they took 120 parcels from the plane’s hold, stacking them in their vehicles. They fled at high speed through the hole in the security fence. The van believed to have been used in the raid was later found burnt out just outside Brussels.
Ine Van Wymersch, spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor, said: “They were well prepared. There were passengers on the plane but they saw nothing of what was going on.”