In the most shocking heist in many years, at least 8 armed assailants, dressed as police officers, broke into a plane’s cargo hold and made off with approximately 50 million dollars worth of diamonds and precious metals. The heist took place at an airport in Antwerp, Belgium, while no one was injured, the famed Antwerp World Diamond Centre is believed to have lost some 50 million dollars in diamonds.
Given the complexity of the heist, this operation may have been carried out by an organized crime outfit with the brazen muscle, knowledge, and resources necessary to execute such an attack. After using a hole in the fence line to gain access to the airport, the group approached the Swiss bound flight before take off. Brandishing machine guns and police-like uniforms, the robbers were able to complete the robbery in less than five minutes.
It’s easy to overlook organized crime. The popular subject of movies, books, and countless imaginations, organized crime may not appear to be as prevalent as it once was, but looks can be deceiving. Unlike during the heydays in the early and mid 20th century, organized crime has largely disappeared from the spot light. And yet in spite of this, organized crime is just as pervasive and no less complex.
The FBI estimates that organized crime rakes in over 1 trillion dollars a year in profits, a staggering sum for any industry. To put that sum in perspective, South Korea, which is home to 50 million people and the world’s 15th largest economy, produced a GDP of just over 1 trillion dollars in 2012. While 50 million dollars in diamonds is certainly a large single haul, in the big scheme of organized crime, it actually represents little more than a drop in the bucket.
The old Italian Mafia appear to be losing ground, finding themselves being replaced by more violent Russian and Eastern European crime syndicates and Asian crime rings. These organizations are active around the world and make their money through extortion, smuggling and selling drugs, mass theft, and, of course, stealing valuables such as diamonds. The new breed of organized crime syndicates is also viewed as more violent and quicker to resort to murder, though no one was hurt in the recent diamond heist.
Given that the heist went down only hours ago, police are unsure who could have carried out the attack and if they are formally connected to any organized crime group. Regardless, the speed, ferocity, and skill with which the heist was carried out make it clear that these were not your average neighborhood criminal. The heist was carried out with military precision and apparently even military grade hardware, such as assault rifles, which are not easy to come by in Belgium.
Unless the thieves are apprehended soon, the diamonds they stole are likely to disappear into the black market, where they will be “laundered” before entering back into market. By using various jewelers, seemingly legitimate diamond trading operations, false paperwork, and other efforts, the diamonds will be made to look legally acquired and then slowly sold off. Along the way numerous organized crime organizations will likely act as enablers and will profit nicely for their efforts in cleaning the diamonds and getting them back into the market. There’s even a chance that in the near future that some of the stolen diamonds will once again make their way through Antwerp World Diamond Centre and the Antwerp Airport.
This brazen act points to the need to increase the war on organized crime. While the war on terror has taken the spotlight in recent decades, thousands of lives are lost and ruined by organized crime each year. Organized crime syndicates are growing increasingly violent as the stakes of the game in terms of turf and money continue to rise. More people will die and literally billions of dollars will be lost from the economy as goods are stolen, taxes subverted, and huge sums are spent to enforce laws.