Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Armed robbery at Pondy Bazaar and diamond heist at Antwerp - 2005

A mail circulated on 1st March 2005. posted today................

Dears  :    Millions worth of diamonds stolen (there are lessons to be learnt everywhere)

February 28th, 2005 – Morning 9.30 am -  Generally Chennai wakes up much earlier than other cities.  In a daring daylight burglary, an armed four member gang robbed Rs. 20 lakhs in cash including foreign currency  from a forex bureau in a shopping mall in the busy Pondy Bazaar area today {For those outside Chennai, Pondy Bazaar is a market area abuzz with activity round the clock having lot of Textile showrooms, Gold & Diamond shops and more….shops}   In a place which is crowded at any point of time, the gang entered the shop in the pretext of exchanged money, downed the shutters, brandished knife and threatened the staff at knife point.  They broke open the cash drawer and walked away with the money.  

This daring daylight robbery has badly shaken the people of Chennai who seldom thought of such an event taking place in a common market place.  A similar incident of armed looting was reported recently in a Gems & Jewellers shop on North Usman road.

If you are perturbed, please read on………………………….. Something of a much bigger magnitude took place in Belgium recently (Feb 2005)

Diamonds were first recorded in India over 5,000 years ago, but were exclusive to royalty for thousands of years. Popular use of diamonds began with the discovery of rich reserves in South Africa in the late 19th century.

Thieves in Antwerp have stolen diamonds worth tens of millions of dollars in a raid which could threaten the city's reputation as the hub of the world diamond trade. Besides the gems, the raiders also stole security documents designed to prove the diamonds' authenticity.    The raid is being described as the most daring diamond heist in history - 123 out of 160 safes at Antwerp's high security diamond centre were burgled.

Special keys to open high-security vaults at the Antwerp Diamond Center are displayed on a table as pieces of evidence at the Antwerp judicial police headquarters.  
ONLY the robbers know how many diamonds were stolen, yet Belgian media have already dubbed it the biggest heist ever in the diamond-cutting capital of the world.    Previously, the largest theft on record in Antwerp occurred in 1994, when thieves cleaned out five vaults in the Diamond Center, for a loss of $4.55 million. Two Israelis and another man from Brazil were convicted in that theft but their case is on appeal.  
Police were today still struggling to quantify the loss. But a decade ago, when only five vaults were robbed in the cellar where cutters and dealers traditionally store their wares, the heist was estimated at £2.85 million.  Thieves cleared out 123 of 160 vaults in the maximum-security cellars of Antwerp's Diamond Centre over the weekend of Feb. 15-16, but the robbery wasn't discovered until Feb. 17 2005.
The thieves bypassed heavy security to steal the diamonds from 123 of 160 vaults in the cellar of the Antwerp Diamond Center . Apart from the magnitude of the theft, it was the audacity of the robbers which stood out.  The Diamond Centre, at the heart of Antwerp’s historic gem district, has surveillance cameras everywhere and requires special passes to get in.  The room where the vaults are located is even better protected, with round-the-clock guards standing by.  Since there is no sign of a break-in at the entrance or in the cellar, police suspect an inside job.

Antwerp's judicial director, Eric Sack said investigators believe thieves had spent two years planning the robbery and called it "a piece of genius in its simplicity, not in the least because the security system was so thoroughly analyzed."  Thieves learned how to circumvent the alarm system and copied the master keys, Sack said. They taped over cameras and are believed to have put old videotapes in the surveillance system to buy time, Sack said. 

With  Regards -
S. Sampathkumar

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