19 to face trial over spectacular Brussels diamond heist

Brussels (AFP) –


Nineteen people have been ordered to face trial over a spectacular $50 million diamond heist at Brussels airport almost three years ago, the Belga news agency said Thursday.

The February 2013 robbery, one of the world's biggest diamond thefts, saw a gang of armed men posing as police seize the gems from a passenger plane in an operation that lasted barely 10 minutes without a shot being fired.

Prosecutors said nine suspects will go on trial on charges of direct involvement in the robbery and the rest on charges of hiding the diamonds, Belga reported.

Six of the suspects are also charged with money laundering in Belgium, Switzerland and Morocco.

Prosecutors did not give a date for the trial of the 19 suspects who include three women. All but one live in Belgium.

The gang of hooded men armed with machine guns pulled up in a car on the runway at Brussels' main Zaventem airport where an armoured vehicle had just unloaded diamonds into a plane about to take off for Zurich.

The men forced open the hold and removed about 120 boxes of diamonds before making off with the haul of about $50 million dollars (45 million euros) in gems.

More than 30 people were detained in Belgium, France and Switzerland in massive coordinated police operations and a large quantity of diamonds and cash was recovered.

In November, a Swiss court gave an estate agent and his lawyer two-year suspended sentences and fines for handling stolen goods.