The diamonds were traveling from Antwerp, Belgium, to Zurich, Switzerland when they were stolen by eight armed men late Monday. Antwerp is the hub of the world diamond trade — about 150m euros' worth of stones move in and out of the city daily. Police said the robbers, who used two vehicles, breached a security gate when the goods were being loaded onto the aircraft from a Brinks security van, then escaped through the same breach.
The plane was a passenger flight from Brussels to Zurich, operated by Helvetica Airlines. Jan Van der Cruysse, a spokesman for Brussels Airport, told CNN that it took the thieves only three minutes to rob the cargo hold and that they left the scene minutes later. They were heavily armed, but no shots were fired. Police later found a burned-out vehicle close to the airport.
The thieves got away with up to 50 million euros ($67m) in rough and polished diamonds. The spokesman for the Antwerp World Diamond Centre said it was aware of reports that gold and platinum were stolen along with the diamonds, but said he could not confirm that information.