BRUSSELS – Thieves have outwitted armed guards, alarm systems and even airport security over the years, making off with diamonds and other jewelry worth millions. In Brussels, thieves cut through an airport fence, drove to a Swiss-bound plane and snatched an estimated $50 million in diamonds late Monday.
Here are some other spectacular heists in recent memory:
2005: Thieves threaten the guards and hijack an armored car from Dutch carrier KLM's cargo ramp at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, making off with millions in diamonds and jewelry. Subsequent media reports put the value of the loot at up to $100 million. "It was a secured area of the airport, so it's a big question how those people could get there," an airline spokesman said at the time.
2003: Robbers tape over security cameras, disable the alarm system and break into the high-security underground vaults of the Diamond Center in Antwerp, the world capital of diamond-cutting, getting away with an estimated $100 million in goods. After prying open 123 of the 160 vaults, the thieves stood ankle-deep in a pile of diamonds, gold, jewelry, stocks, bonds, cash and lockboxes, police said. The bounty was so abundant they had to leave a lot behind.
2008: While Christmas shoppers stroll outside the posh Harry Winston jewelry shop near Paris' famed Champs-Elysees, armed thieves — some dressed as women and wearing wigs — enter the store and steal gems and jeweled watches worth up to $85 million, according to French police.
2009: Two elegantly dressed men rob the Graff Diamond Store in London's posh Mayfair district and carry away necklaces, watches, rings and bracelets worth more than >40 million ($62 million at today's exchange rate), according to Scotland Yard.
1994: Machine-gun-toting thieves steal $45 million in gems from the Carlton Hotel in Cannes on the French Riviera.
2004: Twelve pieces of jewelry worth about $31.5 million, including the 125-carat "Comtesse de Vendome" diamond necklace, are stolen from a store in Tokyo's Ginza district.
2007: 120,000 karats in diamonds, worth $28 million, are stolen from safe-deposit boxes in an ABN Amro bank in Antwerp, Belgium, according to police.
2008: Masked thieves drill a tunnel into jeweler Damiani's showroom in Milan, Italy, making off with gold, diamonds and rubies worth an estimated $20 million. The company did not confirm the value of the stolen items.
2002: Thieves break into a Dutch science museum, where an exhibition promised to show visitors how to tell real diamonds from fakes, and made off with necklaces, tiaras and precious gems on loan from other museums estimated to be worth $12 million.
1993: Robbers manage to open only five of the underground vaults at the Antwerp Diamond Center, yielding loot estimated at $4.55 million.