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Mar. 2003

Four people — a Dutch woman and three Italian men – were arrested by Belgian police and being held in solitary confinement in connection with the biggest diamond theft in Antwerp’s history.

The arrest took place a week after the theft, in which thieves emptied 123 of 160 diamond vaults in the Antwerp Diamond Center building.

The value of the stolen goods is still unknown, but authorities estimated it to be close to $100 million. A decade ago, when only five vaults were robbed in the cellar, the theft was estimated at $4.5 million. Police haven’t yet located the stolen goods.

Antwerp’s diamond district is one of the best-protected areas in Belgium. The ADC’s security include surveillance cameras, special passes for entry, and round-the-clock guards in the basement room where the vaults are located.

Unfortunately, the security may keep outsiders from entering, but it can’t necessarily guard against an inside job. And since there were no signs of forced entry, nor were any alarms sounded, police suspect that the thieves had inside help.

Police say the four suspects rented office space in 2000 in the building where the vaults are located. They believe one of the Italian men was the mastermind and the others were accomplices.

Antwerp’s judicial director, Eric Sack, said investigators believe the thieves spent two years planning the robbery and called it “a piece of genius in its simplicity, not in the least because the security system was so thoroughly analyzed.”

They learned how to circumvent the alarm system, copied master keys, taped over security cameras and put old videotapes in the surveillance system to buy time.

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