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Interesting Diamond Thefts

Last month we discussed interesting art thefts, and this month we’ll take a look at some interesting diamond thefts.  However, before we do, did you read about the recent gold theft in Brisbane?

Police investigating the theft of 75 kilograms of bullion from an Upper Kedron home overnight are appealing for public assistance.  Sometime between 6pm on New Years Eve and 3am New Years Day thieves broke into an Ellie Court, Upper Kedron home, ransacking several rooms before locating a safe and breaking into it. The safe was emptied of its contents- gold and silver bullion and coins worth approximately $200,000- with thieves using the household wheelie bin to transport the cargo to the end of Ellie Court, where the wheelie bin was found abandoned.

It’s a terrible loss and shows the importance of proper security and, hopefully, insurance.

So, onto the Diamond Heists

In 1983, the Brinks-MAT warehouse at Heathrow Airport was robbed.  The robbers had inside help, and with the inside guard’s detailed knowledge of the warehouse layout and security procedures, the team of six thieves managed to raid the warehouse – approximately $39 million of Bullion and Diamonds

Some of the men were caught shortly thereafter and sentenced to prison.  But the gold was never recovered. Authorities suspect that all of the gold was mixed with other metals to make the bullion untraceable.

The Carlton Hotel in France has its own jewelry shop. In 1994, that shop became the target of one of the biggest gem heists ever.  At the shop’s closing time, three masked men entered the store and began spraying machine gun fire (albeit blanks!).  Everyone panicked, and as people fled or huddled in terror, the men stole roughly $60 million. They were never apprehended, and the jewels were never recovered.

From the brutal to the inexplicable.

In December 2002, thieves pulled off one of the most inexplicable diamond heists of all time. The Museon, a science museum in The HagueNetherlands, was putting on a diamond exhibit intended to educate the public about the gems. There were royal pieces on display, as well as jewellery lent to the Museon by other museums and private collectors.

The most valuable pieces disappeared either Sunday night or Monday morning. The Museon had 24-hour security guards monitoring entrances and exits, as well as 24-hour surveillance-camera footage that covered every square inch of the exhibit. The cabinets were all in a motion-detection zone, and the displays that housed the most valuable pieces (the displays the thieves emptied) were made of reinforced glass.

To this day, no one has any idea how the heist happened. Nothing showed up on the video footage, the guards never saw a thing, the motion sensors never went off and the display cabinets showed no evidence of tampering.

The museum put a price tag of about $12 million on the robbery, but given many of the stolen pieces had historical significance, the haul is really priceless.

After several years of investigation without a single lead, detectives closed the case.

From the inexplicable to the exotic.

One of the largest diamond heists ever took place in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2003 with a confirmed value of at least $100 million.

Eighty percent of the world’s uncut gems go through Antwerp, and many of them are stored in the underground vault of the Antwerp Diamond Center building.  Of the 160 safety deposit boxes where diamond brokers leave their stones while brokering deals, 123 were emptied of their contents.

The criminals (at least 4) rented office space in the building in 2000, analysed the alarm system and learned how to bypass it. They also obtained keys to the vault and made copies. On the day of the break-in, they recorded over the security cameras and inserted fake tapes into the surveillance system.

The gang was identified as a group known as the School of Turin — a “brilliant” group of thieves that never uses violence. They were eventually caught when DNA was found on a half eaten sandwich nearby.

Most of the thieves are in prison, but the $100 million worth of diamonds and gems have never been found. Italian police discovered some of the loot in a vault in Italy, but by the time Antwerp authorities arrived to collect the stolen stones, they were gone – removed from yet another secure location!

There are so many more thefts – I might make a Part 2 just on Diamond Heists.