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"The fact that this happened is a big problem for us."
February 19, 2013 9:57 AM   Subscribe

In a meticulously planned raid that took barely five minutes to execute, armed men disguised as police officers drove onto the tarmac at the international airport in Brussels on Monday night and stole diamonds worth around $50 million as they were being loaded onto a plane bound for Switzerland, officials said. (SLNYT)
posted by Elementary Penguin (58 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Didn't Gene Hackman make a movie about this 11 years ago?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:00 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


It sort of reminds me of the Lufthansa Heist. I wonder if it will end up the same way, or if they will instead manage to keep their cool.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:02 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


No kidding? A big problem you say?
posted by Windopaene at 10:06 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is me being a very naive/n00b master criminal here but: how does one fence $50m in marked diamonds? They're marked, no?
posted by basicchannel at 10:07 AM on February 19, 2013


How would you think they are marked?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:08 AM on February 19, 2013


Any marking would vastly decrease their value in a legitimate sale. So no, they wouldn't be, at least in any way that's not extremely easy to remove.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:09 AM on February 19, 2013


Where's Miss Piggy when you really need her?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:10 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some... super modern... uh... micro... yea ok. See? I'm new to this racket!
posted by basicchannel at 10:10 AM on February 19, 2013


Old'n'Busted, that was my first thought too.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:11 AM on February 19, 2013


The viral marketing for the new Bond movie has gotten out of control.
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I love imagining a Guy Ritchie scene in the back of the getaway car as the thieves realize no one has any idea how to fence the diamonds or launder the money.
posted by griphus at 10:11 AM on February 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Also, am I the only one expecting police to be on the lookout for a bejacketed half-Japanese man, a sharpshooter in a ratty suit and an inexplicably anachronistic samurai?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:14 AM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I read that they were rough, uncut diamonds.
posted by smitt at 10:18 AM on February 19, 2013


WSJ the robbers apparently knew that on Monday night, one section of the protection would be crossable due to some construction work.
I would love to know whose insurance will pay out here?
The airports? inadequate security peimeter.
The airline? but were the goods loaded - some seem to have been removed from the hold.
The armoured car company - losing goods in their possession or all three.
Seems like a great shit fight about to happen there.
posted by adamvasco at 10:22 AM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


“We are shocked by the fact this could ever happen. We are all wondering: how is this possible?”

How indeed.

Diamonds traded in Antwerp last year had a total value of $51.9 billion, accounting for 80 percent of the world’s rough diamond trade and 50 percent of trade in polished gems.

Ding ding ding!
posted by jquinby at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read that they were rough, uncut diamonds.

I heard they were rough, uncut, rugged, musky, ripped, hard, sweaty diamonds.
posted by odinsdream at 10:33 AM on February 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


Belgian Heist: The Animated Series
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:36 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Didn't Gene Hackman make a movie about this 11 years ago?

John Malkovich was great in that.


So anyway, what's all this about uncut rough trade?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:39 AM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


how does one fence $50m in marked diamonds? They're marked, no?

You sell them to people who don't care that they're stolen. They won't be "marked" to the point that they would be recognizable to the naked eye, especially after they get put into jewelry. And you don't get $50m for them. You might get $5m.
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. The fact that someone can, with a little planning and organization, take things off or put things on airplanes without being caught is something of a problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:41 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. The fact that someone can, with a little planning and organization, take things off or put things on airplanes without being caught is something of a problem.

This isn't that surprising, given the way airports work. I'm actually surprised they bothered to dress like police and use guns, rather than just surreptitiously divert the packages by dressing as baggage handlers. Perhaps there were couriers or guards moving along with the shipment that would have ruled out that option.
posted by odinsdream at 10:53 AM on February 19, 2013


Have they confirmed the whereabouts of Ronnie Biggs?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2013


Any marking would vastly decrease their value in a legitimate sale.

Who says the point is selling them?
posted by DU at 10:54 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who says the point is selling them?

Who is the "American" CIA type with that great accent in that clip?
posted by zippy at 10:58 AM on February 19, 2013


Holy schmoly, the American is Jimmy Dean, sausage king of Chicaco the US!
posted by zippy at 11:00 AM on February 19, 2013


I've got an alabi. I was on Metafilter.
posted by mazola at 11:04 AM on February 19, 2013


how does one fence $50m in marked diamonds? They're marked, no?

You dont need to fence them, if you stole them from yourself.

I'm a Diamond Tycoon. I arrange to have $50 million worth of my diamonds "stolen", collect the insurance money and have the value of all diamonds worldwide increase by $50 million.

No fencing required.
posted by Avenger at 11:10 AM on February 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Isn't the global wholesale market for diamonds headed for a massive devaluation anyway? I wonder how many more artificially inflated heists like this will be attempted before then.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:13 AM on February 19, 2013


The diamonds were just a diversion! Nobody's noticed yet that a second crew stole the airport.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:14 AM on February 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: "Any marking would vastly decrease their value in a legitimate sale. So no, they wouldn't be, at least in any way that's not extremely easy to remove."

Actually, cut diamonds usually are indeed marked with a laser-engraved serial number. (These are apparently uncut diamonds which obviously are not marked, but anyway.) You would think that putting what is essentially a scratch on the diamond would reduce its value, but DeBeers (those crafty bastards) would like you to believe that it actually makes them worth more. Reinforcing the DeBeers stranglehold on the international diamond market is of course only an incidental side-effect.
posted by Scientist at 11:17 AM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would expect that the same people who don't care about the blood-diamond origin of some unfinished stones wouldn't care that some rough stones came from a batch of stolen diamonds, either.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:34 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess the cops in Antwerp don't respond with like 100 guys within 90 seconds, guys who can put a full magazine in the 10 ring right after doing a tactical roll. Thanks, Payday.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:36 AM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fact that someone can, with a little planning and organization, take things off or put things on airplanes without being caught is something of a problem.

Well, they found my nailclippers in my purse fast enough when I went through the line. To be fair, they were in a sparkly zirconium case.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:58 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


a) They are diamonds
b) They are now stolen diamonds

So they were overvalued to begin with, because all diamonds are. And now that it's going to be an insurance claim, they are certainly overvalued again.

So 50 million? Not really. Probably much less. Let's just say, 25 million, market value.

25 million in market value, probably 3 to 10 million at best to buyers who will certainly suspect they are stolen.

Now, if you had "50 million" insured, but were really only out "25 million", you are up 25 million. You give, say, ten million to the "thieves", who return the diamonds to you, you are up 15 million plus the value of the recovered diamonds, which of course is "50 million" on the market.

So yes, this was an inside job - one way or another.
posted by Xoebe at 12:06 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love a good heist story. I wonder how it will end??
posted by citron at 12:13 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is silly. If I'm stealing diamonds for profit, I'm going to get the whole thing done before Valentine's day.
posted by kurumi at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder how frequently transports of this value in diamonds are made daily. Also, there must have been some insider information leaked somewhere down the line...
posted by ageispolis at 12:22 PM on February 19, 2013


It's interesting how certain people can be about a conspiracy that they make up on the spot.
posted by skewed at 12:24 PM on February 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


ABC (Aust) radio this morning said "blah blah, no shots fired, nobody hurt in this brutal robbery".

Those poor little diamonds.... being tossed around in a case/bag as the robbers made their getaway.

Lazy journalism makes me hide under the covers and weep.
posted by Kerasia at 12:57 PM on February 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's interesting how certain people can be about a conspiracy that they make up on the spot.

The robbers themselves constitute a conspiracy. That they had information that allowed them to commit the robbery so quickly and without complications indicates that presumably someone other than the robbers (like, say, someone who at that time was busy establishing an alibi) was involved. It is conjecture, but it's not like anyone is suggesting the involvement of Barack Obama's Secret Islam Astral Vatican UFO Cült.

Well, maybe I am.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 12:59 PM on February 19, 2013


That airport has the nastiest people running check-ins. They ignore Swiss Air rules and impose their own. They threaten you if you complain. Sometimes we fly to Amsterdam or Duesseldorf, just to avoid Brussels, when going for family visits. My partner has to go there for work though. In fact, he's flying in tomorrow night.
posted by Goofyy at 1:16 PM on February 19, 2013


Now, if you had "50 million" insured, but were really only out "25 million", you are up 25 million.

So which is this insurance company that allows you to overinsure your items by any amount you care to name without any independent valuation? I'm, uh, asking for a friend.
posted by yoink at 1:27 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


50 million in diamonds sounds so much more exciting than 30 million dollar theft in strategic maple syrup reserves.
posted by jadepearl at 1:58 PM on February 19, 2013


Yes. The fact that someone can, with a little planning and organization, take things off or put things on airplanes without being caught is something of a problem.

This wasn't a stealth operation - - there would be plenty of time to find anything put on the airplane.
posted by fairmettle at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2013


Where was Ray Liotta last night?
posted by jfwlucy at 2:31 PM on February 19, 2013


Where was Ray Liotta last night?

Probably at home. He probably learned about the heist while he was in the shower this morning.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:39 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now, if you had "50 million" insured, but were really only out "25 million", you are up 25 million. You give, say, ten million to the "thieves", who return the diamonds to you, you are up 15 million plus the value of the recovered diamonds, which of course is "50 million" on the market
Unless you're stupid and get Henry Rollins to ring Waingrow and start a sequence of events which ends with you being shot in your own home.
posted by fullerine at 2:42 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Onion's take.
posted by brundlefly at 2:55 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right. Sounds like a cunning plot to distract us from the fact that Belgians eat their frites with MAYONNAISE.
posted by argonauta at 4:49 PM on February 19, 2013


" cut diamonds usually are indeed marked with a laser-engraved serial number. "

How permanent is that etching? If you can laser them off (or just diamond paste polish) and replace with clean numbers then that's not much of a security measure.
posted by Mitheral at 6:12 PM on February 19, 2013


50 million in diamonds sounds so much more exciting than 30 million dollar theft in strategic maple syrup reserves.

Comparing rocks to maple syrup?

As a french toast lover, I must object!
posted by BlueHorse at 6:12 PM on February 19, 2013


On one hand; I really love a good heist. On the other hand, I do so love a conspiracy theory.
posted by dejah420 at 6:36 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stanley Mark Rifkin tried something similar in the 1970s. He defrauded Security Pacific National Bank (at that time the second largest bank in California) out of $10.2 million via wire transfer, transferred $8 million of that money to Switzerland, and purchased diamonds. His mistake was flying back to the USA to try to sell the diamonds in San Diego. Diamond sellers at that volume, at that time, numbered about five. When number six offers a large stash, you don't call your friends; you call the FBI.

I worked at Security Pacific National Bank at the time of the robbery, and security suddenly got much tighter on certain systems. No more posting passwords on bulletin boards, even in secure areas.

The bank got its $2.2 million in cash back from New York, and sold the $8 million in diamonds (via one of the big brokers) for about $1 million profit.

We employees were joking that they should start posting the three passwords needed to do wire transfers on the elevator doors. It was more profitable than most activities the bank engaged in at that time.
posted by blob at 7:50 PM on February 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apparently cut diamonds are also routinely x-rayed as a means of extracting a fingerprint of the stone that can be referenced by the authorities in case of theft. The nature of the fingerprinting technique is supposed even persist if the stone is recut.
It also seems from my google research that diamonds can be traced back to the mine of origin by evaluating for specific impurities and the carbon isotopes.

Many people have predicted that the diamond market will collapse. Yet is doesn't even when it is pointed out that diamonds are not rare, easily manufactured and not particularly useful or more reflective than bits of cut glass. Abundant supply, compelling substitututes, etc, yet none of this seems to break the market.

My theory is that the market has stabilize because the consumer is not willing to pay less. They might haggle a bit on the price, but they want to buy something expensive. The symbolic meaning sets the price.
posted by humanfont at 8:43 PM on February 19, 2013


Obligatory link to The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist
posted by The Illiterate Pundit at 10:20 PM on February 19, 2013


The security at that airport is a friggin' joke. Just last week, a young boy managed to board a flight to Malaga unaccompanied and without either ticket or ID.
posted by Skeptic at 11:02 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Onion's take.

Oh dear. Whoever has written this must have lived in Brussels. It really isn't too far off the mark.
posted by Skeptic at 11:07 PM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


How easy is it to fence $50 million worth of stolen diamonds?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:40 AM on February 21, 2013


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