Brussels Airport's Jan Van der Cruysse says that shortly before 8pm two vehicles with eight heavily armed gangsters punctured a hole in the fence around the airport.
The vehicles made their way to a passenger plane operated by the Swiss airplane Swiss. The security firm Brink's had just stowed a valuable shipment of diamonds on board the aircraft.
Brussels Airport's Jan Van der Cruysse: "Threatening to use their weapons the robbers made off with several goods stowed in the plane's loading area. The whole incident only took a few minutes. No shots were fired. Nobody was injured."
"Gangsters dressed as police officers"
In the course of the morning further details of the heist emerged. At a news conference in Brussels public prosecutors told newsmen that the eight robbers had been kitted out in police uniforms. The gangsters trained their guns on several people during the heist.
The two black vehicles they were travelling in headed straight for the Swiss aircraft where security guards were stowing a valuable shipment in the hold.
The eight gangsters were dressed as police officers or were wearing clothes that closely resembled police uniforms. They travelled four per vehicle. Each vehicle was equipped with flashing police lights.
Guns were trained on the pilot, the co-pilot and a security guard. The gangsters were equipped with machine guns, but no shots were fired. None of the passengers were injured.
The gangsters proceeded to break open the doors leading to the hold. They stole at least 120 parcels. The stolen goods included a shipment of diamonds. Police are as yet refusing to put a value on this shipment.
The raid lasted no longer than 5 minutes. Prosecutors speak of a well-prepared and professional heist.
The gangsters had gained access to the airport by first making a hole in the fence between two containers.
Police recover burnt out delivery van
A delivery van that may have been used in the heist was recovered in Zellik (Flemish Brabant) in the course of the evening. Detectives are now examining the vehicle that was completely gutted by fire to determine whether it was used in the robbery and whether the robbers switched to a different vehicle in Zellik.
The stolen diamonds originated in Antwerp. Antwerp diamond sources value the shipment at 50 million dollars.
The Swiss airline has not yet responded to the robbery. It says that the police investigation is underway and that the company will await the outcome of the investigation before commenting.
Not the first time
This is not the first occasion that a major shipment of diamonds has been stolen at Brussels Airport. In 2005 robbers got away with a large shipment of diamonds held by the couriers FedEx in the Brucargo freight section of the airport. In 2001 cash and securities were stolen from a Brink's Ziegler money transport. Eighteen months earlier diamonds were stolen from a Lufthansa aircraft at Zaventem.
In 1995 securities were stolen from a Swissair aircraft that was ready for take-off, while in 1982 a security guard, Francis Zwarts, was attacked by gangsters wearing state police uniforms. The robbers got away with gold and jewelry. Francis Zwarts's body was never found.