Four arrested in diamond heist

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

ANTWERP, Belgium -- Four people were arrested in connection with a massive heist from diamond trading center that has been described as the biggest robbery ever in the diamond-cutting capital of the world, police said Tuesday.

The three Italian men and a Dutch woman were arrested over the weekend and were put in solitary confinement until a court decides on their detention Thursday, said Leen Nuyts, a magistrate at the prosecutor's office in this port city.

She declined to give more information on the four besides saying they were arrested based on "developments in the ongoing investigation."

The daily De Morgen said the four had rented office space only a few months ago in the building where the vaults are located.

Thieves cleared out over two thirds of the 160 vaults during the weekend of Feb. 15 at Antwerp's Diamond Center, a trade office at the heart of the old diamond district where police and surveillance cameras are highly visible around the clock.

Even 10 days after the theft, police could not give an estimate of the losses, since many of the traders and cutters who were abroad had not provided information on the content of their vaults, said Nuyts.

A decade ago, robbers looted just five vaults in the cellar where cutters and dealers traditionally store their wares, taking an estimated $4.55 million worth of goods.

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