A Hollywood-like heist yesterday of more than $50 million worth of diamonds has the world buzzing.
It’s also raising important questions about runway security when it comes to moving very valuable goods.
In the Belgian city of Antwerp, a group of highly organized thieves cut their way onto the airport runway, drove through the holes in cars with blue lights flashing, seized 120 packages of “rough stone” diamonds that had just been loaded onto a Swiss passenger plane destined for Zurich, and fled the scene in vans. And all within a few minutes.
Indeed, according to Paul Waldie in The Globe and Mail, the heist was so fast that passengers had no idea what was happening on the tarmac below their feet. No shots were fired and no one was hurt.
The incident leaves many un-answered questions:
Was it an inside job?
How did the thieves time their action so precisely?
How did they leave so quickly without being caught or at least followed?
The Belgian Minister of State for Transport, Melchior Wathelet, is now asking another tough question that could change security protocols for the movement of precious items. That is, should police – and not airport staff – escort security trucks to airplanes in the future?
These are very important questions in Antwerp, a leading diamond centre for centuries.
According to an article in The Guardian, about eight in every 10 rough diamonds and five in every 10 polished diamonds pass through the city on their way to global destinations. And the BBC is reporting that about 150 million euros’ worth of “rough stone” diamonds move in and out of Antwerp every day. Many of these stones are shipped by plane.
This makes the issue of runway security all the more important and urgent to address as the Belgian government investigates and the city of Antwerp tries to polish its reputation as a safe harbour for precious gems.