Safes sealed in Antwerp diamond district

Antwerp prosecutors on Tuesday sealed around a hundred safe deposit boxes in a strong room in the CBS Building in the diamond district of the northern port city.

The safes are all located at the same premises used by a single diamond trader. The financial daily De Tijd reports that the sealing of the safe deposit boxes occurred in the course of an investigation into money laundering practises. The Belgian judicial authorities have asked the owners of the safes to come forward. If they can prove that their safe does not contain anything untoward, the content of the safe will be released.

On Tuesday Antwerp judicial services searched both the strong room on the ground floor of the CBS Building and the office of a well known 57-year-old Antwerp estate agent and diamond trader.

The homes of several members of the management of his companies were also raided. Judicial authorities also intend to interview these businesspeople.

De Tijd claims that the investigation started, after, in the course of two separate investigations, it became clear that illicit goods were kept in the diamond trader’s safes.

The paper notes that the operation is a controversial one because it is a kind of fishing operation that will oblige the owners of items in the sealed safes, chiefly diamond traders, to come forward and prove that the items are not suspect.

Members of the public seeking information about their deposits in the strong room of the CBS Building can contact the GEFIC division of the federal police on 03/670.73.67

De Tijd reports that Tuesday's judicial police operation was ordered by examining magistrate Christiaan Van Wambeke. He earlier came to prominence after seizing large quantities of diamonds from traders who were clients of Mostrey Worldwide Services, a major diamond transporter that faces allegations of involvement in fraudulent practices.

In many cases prosecutions connected to the diamond trade launched by the Antwerp public prosecutor’s office and this examining magistrate have led to convictions. The Mostrey investigation is also reaching its conclusion. It is believed to be the biggest diamond fraud ever uncovered in the Antwerp diamond trade and could involve as many as 355 diamond traders and fraud totalling 790 million euros.