Belgium Jewel Heist Valued At $100M

Actress and singer Miley Cyrus arrives at the "Concert for Hope" benefiting City of Hope in Los Angeles, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2009.
AP
Authorities put a price tag of $100 million Thursday on the jewels, gold and securities stolen this month in what is widely considered to be the theft of the century in Antwerp, the world's diamond-cutting capital.

Police are still looking for the goods taken from 123 of the 160 high-security vaults at Antwerp's Diamond Center and the burglars who actually broke into the building Feb. 16.

Meanwhile, a court Thursday ordered the continued detention of four suspects, two Italian men, one Italian woman and a Dutch woman, who were arrested over the weekend. The four had rented office space in 2000 in the building where the vaults are located. Investigators believe one of the Italian men was the mastermind and the others were his accomplices. Police did not give information beyond their gender and nationalities.

Even though the full extent of the theft is not yet clear, police have already called it the biggest theft in the history of the diamond district.

A decade ago, when only five vaults were robbed in the cellar, the theft was estimated at $4.55 million.

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."

The Diamond Center stands in the heart of the high-surveillance diamond district where police and dozens of cameras work around the clock.

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. Still they left behind many goods in their haste.

"The floor was strewn with safety boxes, gold, money, securities, cut and rough diamonds, jewels," Sack said.