Diamantaire’ family held hostage for 18 hours in Antwerp

by Roe Kalb

Maybe it’s time to keep our diamonds under the floorboards – an Indian diamond merchant and his family, who were staying in Belgium, were held hostage by robbers for 18 hours and freed them only after taking millions of dollars worth of gemstones.

The heist took place Saturday in Antwerp, the world’s biggest diamond center, which is considered a crime-free zone. Just two weeks ago I listed the top five most notorious diamond robberies in the world. Luckily, I don’t have to change it due to this robbery.

According to the Antwerp police, five or six armed men walked into the villa of Pankaj Maldar, who head Carp Impex NV diamond firm and took his wife and two children hostage. 

The gang, who apparently knew the exact nature of the diamond stocked by Maldar’s firm, called up Maldar at his office and demanded the diamonds in return for his family’s safe release. Maldar, left with no choice, did as he was ordered. 

Vasant Mehta, chairman of the Gems and Jewelry Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), said the industry would take up the issue with Belgian Crown Prince Philippe during his visit to India beginning March 25.

“Antwerp is perhaps the safest place in the world. This robbery has come as a very big surprise,” he added.

A spokesman for Ludo Van Campenhout, who is in charge of Antwerp’s diamond quarter, criticized the attack but said security measures in the area were adequate: “attacks on diamond merchants are virtually non-existent in Antwerp. If attacks happen, they are at people’s homes,” he said.

Antwerp robbery aside, European swindlers seem to have had a lucrative weekend: some €800,000 was stolen from a poker tournament held in Berlin’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, at the Potsdamerplatz business square.

The heist, which Der Tagesspiegel magazine already dubbed one of the most spectacular robberies of the last few years, was perpetrated by several masked men during a 10-mimute interval between the hotel security guards’ shifts. They fled the scene using a black Mercedes which was waiting for them outside. 

The robbers probably had their eye of the $1 million dollar prize waiting for the winner of the poker tournament, but that was kept in the hotel safe, leaving them only the “small change” of the floor.

Courtesy of Israeli Diamond Industry Blog

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