A N T W E R P, Belgium, Feb. 12 -- They had just committed the perfect crime — sneaking past multiple levels of the world's top security to steal $100 million in diamonds.
But the group of brazen bandits then made the ultimate escape: calmly driving away from the scene near security patrols, armed guards and a police station housing the investigators who would soon be on their trail.
"They must have [had] an unbelievable kick at that moment," said Detective Agim DeBruycker.
The diamond world was astonished by the crime. Investigators have pieced together how the thieves managed to break into one of the world's most secure vaults, but some questions remain: Is the man in police custody the mastermind behind the scheme? And where in the world are all those diamonds?
A Burglary Worthy of Hollywood
The Antwerp diamond heist played just like a scene out of Ocean's Eleven or The Italian Job. It happened in the Belgian city's diamond district — hub of the world's diamond trade — at the Diamond Center, the district's largest building.
Police said the thieves methodically dismantled security measures one by one to gain access to the main underground vault, where they broke into more than 100 safe deposit boxes full of diamonds and other items. There were so many valuables inside they couldn't carry all of the loot with them.
"It was unbelief, really," said Antwerp police detective Patrick Peys. "It's unimaginable that something like that happens because the buildings are secured quite well."
The robbery occurred over a weekend, and when the diamond traders returned to work on Monday and learned there had been a robbery, there was pandemonium in the vault. "People were shouting, 'That's my box! That's mine!'" said Denise Oliver, who investigated the case for the insurance company representing most of the dealers. "People were crying, and people were fainting."