Nightly News   |  February 19, 2013

In mere minutes, millions in diamonds stolen

The thieves targeted a diamond transfer at Brussels Airport, cutting a hole in a security fence then making a beeline for a delivery van that was loading a plane with the diamonds. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back, as promised, with that wild heist today in belgium, a group of armed gunmen made off with at least $50 million in diamonds , pulling it off, then vanishing without a trace in just minutes. it happened at brussels airport . nbc's keir simmons has our report.

>> reporter: it was brazen. eight armed men targeting an airport, escaping with millions in diamonds without firing a shot. leaving nothing but a burned-out van.

>> this was a very quick hit-and-run, very well organized.

>> reporter: the men were in two vehicles, a mercedes van and a car. they drove through a hole cut in the airport security fence and made straight for a brinks delivery van, loading a plane with the diamonds . they filled the vehicles with boxes of gems, then fled back through the fence. it took just three minutes.

>> we can only conclude that these people were indeed very well aware of what they were doing, what they were looking for.

>> reporter: the jewels were from antwerp, the capital of the world diamond trade. a heist there ten years ago was the biggest ever. tonight disbelief that it's happened again.

>> how is it possible that eight armed men can have access to the tarmac to a specific plane in which they knew that it was going to take off a few minutes later and that had diamonds on board.

>> reporter: diamonds like those sold here in london are a tempting target for thieves. they're small. so easy to carry away. in 2009 , two men robbed glass diamonds of $65 million worth. security cameras showed them simply walking in, disguised in professional makeup. in 1978 , the legendary lufthansa heist at jfk airport .

>> several million dollars in cash and jewelry taken from a cargo hangar by a band of armed men wearing masks.

>> reporter: made famous in the movie "goodfellas."

>> and these are the guys that jimmy put together for what turned out to be the biggest heist in american history .

>> reporter: just last year at a london mall was hit by jewel thieves on motorcycles. police in belgium will now be looking for clues in their own security camera video. but experts warn the diamonds may have already vanished into the black market . keir simmons , nbc news, london .