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International Law

Lawyer is among 33 people arrested over Hollywood-style $50M diamond heist at Brussels airport

Posted May 8, 2013 1:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: A lawyer is reportedly among 33 suspects, aged 30 to 50, arrested in three countries within the past day or so over their alleged conduct related to a daring 3-minute raid at a Belgian airport earlier this year. Diamonds worth some $50 million were stolen.

Eight suspects were detained in Switzerland, including a Geneva lawyer and a businessman who face charges of obstruction and dealing in stolen goods, the Telegraph reports.

Authorities in Switzerland say they also seized a large quantity of diamonds linked to the heist and 100,000 Swiss francs.

The real-life crime took place Feb. 18 in a scenario similar to the fictional plot of the 2001 movie Heist, in which Gene Hackman and his cohorts drive onto the runway and steal gold bullion from the cargo hold of a plane at a commercial airport.

Likewise, the eight-man team in the actual Brussels-Zaventem international airport heist cut through a perimeter fence and drove an Audi sedan and a Mercedes van, both equipped with flashing blue lights, onto the runway. A Brinks truck had just unloaded the diamonds into the hold of a passenger jet bound for Zurich, the Telegraph recounts.

Four men armed with machine guns and wearing masks and hooded police anoraks held up the pilot, co-pilot and security guards. Then they drove away at high speed, back through the hole in the fence, after forcing open the door of the hold and unloading 120 packages that contained mostly diamonds.

The stolen jewels were worth an estimated 40 million Euros, which amounts to about $52 million in U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate.

The Geneva lawyer and the other suspects arrested by Swiss authorities are accused of acting as intermediaries and middlemen in efforts to cut the diamonds, the New York Times reports (reg. req.). Its article relies on information from an unidentified Swiss investigator.

A subsequent Agence France Presse article provides further details.

Also arrested Tuesday were 24 people in Belgium and one in France, CNN reports. A spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor said police raided about 40 homes in Belgium on Wednesday.

It is not clear how authorities determined there was a connection between the suspects and the crime, the Associated Press reports.

The Christian Science Monitor also has a story and a Daily Mail article published shortly after the heist has numerous illustrations of the crime scene.

Updated on May 9 to include information from the New York Times and on May 13 to include link to Agence France Presse article.

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