A New Antwerp Diamond Heist (and another hedge)

One for close observers of the last one. Both the technical derring-do and the haul were significantly lower: the thieves here just had to cut through a fence, and made off with half as much loot. They also used the threat of force instead of pure technical cunning. However, they did all this with considerable expertise.

To pull off the theft, the criminals made a hole in the airport fence large enough to drive both a van and a truck through, and did so while attracting no attention. They timed their caravan such that it passed through the fence and arrived at a very narrow gap in time: a gap between when the jewels had been loaded onto the plane (and were therefore no longer protected by the armored truck) and when the plane took off.

The French security analyst’s closing quote seems like a reference to the “Goodfellas” heist, where the robbers did indeed know the names of the people they tied up.

My question is how they made the hole in the fence. It’s possible they cut it beforehand and secured it very weakly, so it would get knocked down in a hurry — though that carries the risk of advance discovery. On the other hand, a very rapid cutting method (explosives) would seem to attract too much attention.

I did forget one thing in my list of decent places to park money. (I would add that this all can extend well beyond the crass capitalist notion of value = money. Where to invest one’s personal time seems just as critical.)

We’re in a world increasingly dominated by connection and knowledge, therefore it stands to reason that the old stand-bys of food and natural resources are not the only fundamental sources of value anymore. There’s also making people happy, “interestingness,” bringing people together, providing useful information.

Making people happy, at the very least, is a proven hedge in tough times — see the “Lipstick effect,” where sales of minor cosmetics increased during the Great Depression. These small purchases of high-end goods served as a mood lifter (retail therapy) to people who could otherwise afford nothing. (http://phys.org/news152385593.html)

Sadly, most of the other sectors here are too fast changing to be really good shelters from highly disruptive change, so I haven’t any precise suggestions.


“They arrived at Brussels Airport armed with automatic weapons and dressed in police uniforms aboard two vehicles equipped with blue police lights. But their most important weapon was information: the eight hooded gangsters who on Monday evening seized diamonds worth tens of millions of dollars from a passenger plane preparing to depart for Switzerland knew exactly when to strike — just 18 minutes before takeoff.

Forcing their way through the airport’s perimeter fence, the thieves raced, police lights flashing, to Flight LX789, which had just been loaded with diamonds from a Brink’s armored van from Antwerp, Belgium, and was getting ready for an 8:05 p.m. departure for Zurich.

“There is a gap of only a few minutes” between the loading of valuable cargo and the moment the plane starts to move, said Caroline De Wolf, a spokeswoman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre, an industry body that promotes the diamond business in Belgium. “The people who did this knew there was going to be this gap and when.”

They also knew they had to move swiftly in a secure airport zone swarming with police officers and security guards. Waving guns that the Brussels prosecutors’ office described as “like Kalashnikovs,” they calmly ordered ground staff workers and the pilot, who was outside the plane making a final inspection, to back off and began unloading scores of gem-filled packets from the cargo hold. Without firing a shot, they then sped away into the night with a booty that the Antwerp Diamond Centre said was worth around $50 million but which some Belgian news media reported as worth much more.

The thieves’ only error: they got away with 120 packets of diamonds but left some gems behind in their rush.

“They were very, very professional,” said the Brussels prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch, who said the whole operation lasted barely five minutes. The police, she added, are now examining whether the thieves had inside information. “This is an obvious possibility,” she said.

Passengers, already on board the plane awaiting takeoff, had no idea anything was amiss until they were told to debark because their Zurich-bound flight, operated by Helvetic Airways, had been canceled.

“I am certain this was an inside job,” said Doron Levy, an expert in airport security at a French risk management company, Ofek. The theft, he added, was “incredibly audacious and well organized,” and beyond the means of all but the most experienced and strong-nerved criminals. “In big jobs like this we are often surprised by the level of preparation and information: they know so much they probably know the employees by name.” “

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