Police in three countries arrest 31 people in February diamond heist

May 8, 2013 at 8:46 AM
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BRUSSELS, May 8 (UPI) -- Police in three countries conducted raids and arrested 31 people suspected in a $51 million diamond heist at Brussels' Zaventem Airport, officials said.

Officials said Wednesday one man detained in France is believed to be a member of the eight-man armed gang that lifted the diamonds from a cargo hold of Helvetica Airways flight LX789 in February in a theft that took less than 3 minutes to complete, Britain's The Daily Telegraph reported.

Six people were arrested in Switzerland, where the stolen diamonds were bound, and 24 suspects have been detained in Belgium as the authorities raided 40 addresses tied to the Belgian underworld, officials said.

"We believe the man arrested in France is one of the authors of the robbery," said Jean-Marc Meilleur of the Brussels prosecutor's office.

"It's the only person that we can say at this stage that could have participated in the events on the tarmac," Mielleur said. "Among those arrested in Belgium, at least 10 are known to the court ... . They are part of the Brussels criminal underworld."

The suspects in France and Switzerland were detained Tuesday before the armed raids.

Police also seized money, stolen diamonds and luxury cars.

"In Switzerland, we have found diamonds that we can already say are coming from the heist, and in Belgium large amounts of money has been found," Meilleur said. "And the investigation is still ongoing."

A businessman and a lawyer were among the eight people arrested in Switzerland, and face charges of dealing in stolen goods and obstructing justice.

Prosecutors haven't said how they began tracking the suspects.

During the theft, two vehicles outfitted with blue flashing lights and carrying the men disguised as police officers drove through a security fence and onto a tarmac. Although the pilot, co-pilot and several other people were held at gunpoint, no weapons were fired and no one was injured.

At the time, police said the theft was so well executed, they were looking for a mole who leaked key information.

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