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30 october 2020

                                                       Image credit: Brinks

Only four of the eighteen suspects initially charged with the much-publicized diamond robbery at the Brussels International Airport will stand trial, the Prosecutor General of the Belgian capital announced.

On 18 February 2013, eight alleged criminals in police uniforms drove two vans with flashing lights into the ​​Brussels airport tarmac close to the airplane, onto which the employees of the cash-in-transit company Brink's were loading a large package of rough diamonds for their transportation to Zurich.

As a result, 10 kg of precious gems were stolen by the robbers.

The Brussels prosecutor's office, for its part, appealed the acquittals by the capital’s court on 18 accused in this case in 2018, according to local media reports. The investigating authority decided to abandon the subsequent prosecution of fourteen of the eighteen persons initially indicted for the crime.

All of them were brought to trial for their alleged participation in the robbery in different roles (stealing the diamonds, stealing the cars used to commit the crime, receiving the stolen diamonds, etc.).

The court ruled “the evidence (of their guilt) was insufficient” and not consistent with each other to confirm the guilt of the defendants.

As for Marc Bertoldi who was considered the ‘brain trust’ of the criminal group and was tried for the crime separately in 2019, he only admitted his involvement in the sale of the loot. The prosecutor’s office failed to prove that Bertoldi was the mastermind behind the robbery, and he was sentenced to five years in the maximum security penal colony.

According to the Prosecutor General of Brussels, his department appealed the acquittals and brought an action against B. Houssein again who was repeatedly convicted of banditry previously. The investigators believe that he was one of the organizers and perpetrators of the heist of the rough diamonds and the subsequent sale. F. d'Abdellah, a resident of the Belgian city of Machelen, whose balaclavas and body armours were found during the search, remains another suspect.

The third defendant - still accused  by the prosecution - is E. H. Nordine, the investigators found €50,000 with him during the search. The DNA of B. Tarek, the fourth person on the trial for the crime, was found on the plastic bag used to wrap the money obtained from the sale of some part of the rough diamonds, according to the prosecutor's office.

It was established during the investigation that the last two persons had numerous contacts with Marc Bertoldi who was initially considered the ‘mastermind behind the heist’. The robbers seized bags with diamonds, as well as gold bars and precious stones for a total of €37 mn.

This heist is the most dramatic and audacious of all the robberies committed in Belgium. Only some of the stolen rough diamonds were found.

In May 2013, roughly €5 mn worth of rough diamonds were found in the villa’s basement of a certain Pascal Pont in Switzerland. Being one of his close friends, Marc Bertoldi admitted at the trial that some person - whose name he refused to tell - gave the gems to him.

Alex Shishlo for Rough&Polished