It happened in February 2013. The loot: gold bars and rough diamonds. There is no longer anyone in custody, no evidence, no money.
February 18, 2013. 7:50 p.m. -3.8 degrees Celsius according to official data. The acceleration of the black Mercedes-Benz van bursts a fence of the security perimeter of the Brussels international airport. It is followed by an Audi A8. In each vehicle are four masked men, dressed as police officers and armed with P-90 laser pistols and AK-40 assault rifles. They drive at full speed. Airport security cameras record as if they know where they are going.
At the same time, several men from the security company Brink’s Ziegler are loading 121 packets of diamonds from Antwerp and dozens of gold bars from a van onto a small Fokker plane of the Swiss airline Helvetica Airways, a subsidiary of Swiss Airlines.
The stones and gold are valued at 37 million euros. Most of the diamonds are uncut, which makes it easier for them to be sold later and difficult to find in the markets. The robbers point their weapons at the employees of Brink’s Ziegler and Swiss, who, given their inferiority, cannot do anything other than give up the merchandise.
The thieves made off with 121 packs of diamonds from Antwerp and dozens of gold bars. Photo: EFE
Minutes later the two cars appear charred a few kilometers from the airport. They leave nothing, not a fingerprint or a trace of DNA. It is a spectacular robbery that leaves airport security in a very bad place and that would drive the Belgian Police headlong for years. It sounds like the perfect heist, the masterpiece of an action mystery filmmaker.
A plot twist
Three months later, in a police operation with the participation of French, Belgian, Luxembourgish and Swiss agents, coordinated by the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office, 33 people fell.
Twenty-four of the detainees are in Brussels, eight in Switzerland and one in France. Investigators recover diamonds and gold worth five million euros. They know nothing of the other 32 million. They also seize luxury cars. The detainees are between 30 and 50 years old, many have criminal records for robberies and several have spent time in prison for other crimes.
The perfect robbery had been a failure. Or not. Eight years have passed since the arrests and in these eight years, little by little, the Belgian Justice has released most of the detainees without charge.
Only a few went to trial. This Wednesday, a court in Brussels acquitted the last defendants. It was the last judicial instance. They are free in the absence of sufficient evidence to convict them but there is little doubt that these men organized the robbery.
The booty was worth 37 million euros. Photo: AP
The alleged ringleader, Swiss citizen Pascal Pont, was arrested with diamonds from the robbery, the five million euros in diamonds seized in Switzerland.
After his arrest, Pascal Pont assures that he did not know the origin of the diamonds, that he was looking for buyers and that the one who sold him the diamonds was the French citizen whom the Belgian Justice identifies as Marc Bertoldi, a man convicted seven times in the past for theft . Bertoldi is arrested on May 7, 2013 in the French city of Metz.
The investigators are pulling the thread until they find Bertoldi’s accomplices such as Nordine E, who is seized 50,000 euros in cash of which he cannot explain its origin.
More than the 50,000 euros, the importance of the discovery lies in the fact that in a paper bag that kept part of that money, the researchers found the fingerprints of a certain Tarik B, another of the alleged thieves.
Three weeks after the robbery, Tarik B and Nordine E meet at a hotel in Morocco to rest for a few days together. The hotel is owned by Bertoldi, the man to whom the diamonds would have been delivered after the robbery. In Morocco they are accompanied by a third man who is also accused of the robbery.
That is all the information and all the clues available to Belgian investigators eight years after the robbery. Insufficient to achieve a conviction.
This Wednesday, in the face of disbelief from some police officers who participated in the investigations for years, the last four men remaining accused were finally acquitted. There are no leads, there are no prints, there is no DNA, there are no diamonds, there is no money, nothing to put in the mouth.
The biggest diamond robbery in history continues to be the one that occurred in February 2003 in Antwerp, when five men broke into the security camera of the Diamond Center in the Belgian city and took loot then equivalent to more than 130 million dollars. .
Brussels, special for Clarín