February 19, 2013

Occasionally, criminals really are as cool as they seem in the movies

A general theme here at iSteve is the pervasive disappointingness of real-life crooks compared to their movie counterparts. But, not always. From the WSJ:
BRUSSELS—Heavily armed robbers broke into the national airport here and stole more than 120 packages of diamonds from a Swiss-bound flight Monday night, in one of Europe's most brazen and valuable tarmac holdups in a decade, Belgian prosecutors said Tuesday. 
Shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, two black vehicles with blue lights resembling police transport pulled up to a Helvetic Airways Fokker 100 jet plane, operating for Swiss International Air Lines, that had just been loaded, according to Belgian prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch and other people familiar with the events. 
Eight masked men with machine guns held the ground staff, crew and passengers at gunpoint as they forced security workers to open the plane's cargo door. The men selectively removed at least 120 packets of diamonds, Ms. Van Wymersch said. The vehicles then sped away. No shots were fired and nobody was hurt in the theft, she said. 
Ms. Van Wymersch declined to place a value on the stolen gems. Another person familiar with the events said the jewels are worth at least $350 million.

Note: giant estimates of value of diamonds are probably more like what you'd pay at the heavily advertised mall diamond shop for an engagement ring than actual losses to the owners.

Here's my 2010 post on the Antwerp diamond trade that got ripped off.

49 comments:

Derek Brown said...

Guess we noe know the eight people who saw heist in theatres are.

Anonymous said...

Those types of Heist's have become more common Europe recently.

Derek Brown said...

Belgium seems to have a lot of problems with armed heists. When I was living there in 2000 they had a cash shortage because so many armoured cars were being held up. They started to have to travel in convoys five at a time. That and Dutrox's escape made it seem like an irredeemably corrupt place.

Mr. Anon said...

Actually, I'm glad to know that such crimes are still possible. Oddly, it tends to restore my faith in humanity. It's a smarter, better sort of thief who robs from other thieves (in this case, the diamond cartel).

josh said...

Was one of them a beautiful woman?You gotta have the beautiful woman,dont you--who is fought over by the two alpha dudes.Why is it that I,like Steve apparently,heard this story this morning and instantly thought,"Wow-thats so cool!" I guess diamiond stealing isnt a crime that elecits a whole lot of sympathy for the victims.I am sure these characters will eb caught and turn out to be a bit less cool than their liely movie counterparts,but thats reality. Hey,how about this Pistorious dude? Whats up?Hows that ending apartheid stuff working out?

Entarro said...

Steve, posting here because it's the easiest way to get in touch with you - a cool thread would be to get your thoughts (and solicit your readers' thoughts) on how to redesign the education system based on HBD principles.

Thinking about this as I look at the NYTimes article on how they're now they're now teaching math and science during gym class:
link

Anonymous said...

Cool or uncool?

Anthony said...

But when they make the movie, how many of them will be played by black actors? Or will the Belgian police inspector who catches him be the one played by a black star?

Anonymous said...

The Italian Job meets Snatch.

"That and Dutrox's escape made it seem like an irredeemably corrupt place." Belgium? Corrupt? Shocking.

rightsaidfred said...

I gather that imitating police is more common in Europe than here. I recall some protesters in Sweden dressing as policemen and causing pretty good confusion.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/112422/gentrifications-real-problem-monotony

Bored of not being robbed, raped, or murdered by blacks.
Poor poor liberals.

Jack Quinn said...

Russians...even money.

pat said...

I wonder about that $350M evaluation for the diamonds. Jay Epstein blogs about Hollywood finances and the diamond market. According to him diamonds are priced not by any market but by a small group of insiders. Apparently Russia holds large diamond reserves that hang over the Western European-South African monopoly. They could crash the official price on a whim.

Diamonds in their industrial form are enorously vital to industry. But in their jewelry form are worth whatever De Beers says they are worth. Their value is completely artificial.

That makes this a really lovely crime. No need to get involved in any questionable moral issues like drugs. Steal diamonds. No one is harmed. Indeed this is a victimless crime. The shiny rocks that they stole have no social utility. They will be replaced by some diamond merchant who will merely release some more baubles from some safe somewhere. No harm - no foul.

Since the net effect of this "crime" is to increase the number of diamonds in circulation, which lowers their price and increasing human happiness - where's the crime? They seem to have performed a public service.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

They speak Yiddish in th Antwerp Diamonds trade like in NYC?

Svigor said...

Funny, the Telegraph says the stones were worth about $50 million (and that the thieves only got away with about half of what was on the plane).

I was thinking about mentioning this story to you in a thread, but you got there before I had the chance.

Sounds like an inside-inside job. Like, "steal my stones so I can claim the insurance and take a cut of the job," not "my uncle Morey has a shipment coming in..."

Svigor said...

Derek, I'm probably pointing out the obvious, but Antwerp is the world capital of the diamond trade. And diamonds are a thief's best friend, particularly uncut diamonds.

The (other) funny thing is, as far as I can tell, diamonds are 4/5ths scam nowadays. Synthetic diamonds are 1/5 the cost, and flawless. Natural diamonds only seem to retain their value because the diamond business likes it that way, and people are suckers. "But mine's real." Yeah, and 5x the price, for an inferior product.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that belgium has short prison sentences for armed robbery and america has long sentences and this accounts for the difference between the rates in the two countries ?

Ed said...

The book "Stealing the Mystic Lamb" is a good introduction to how corrupt Belgium really is.

Kylie said...

The thieves in the 1990 Isabella Gardner Museum heist stole 13 artworks with an estimated value of $500 million, including works by Vermeer, Degas and Rembrandt.

Kylie said...

The thieves in the 1990 Isabella Gardner Museum heist stole 13 artworks with an estimated value of $500 million, including works by Vermeer, Degas and Rembrandt.

Apparently this blog has trouble believing I'm not a robot. I spend more time trying to prove a negative than I do composing my comments so I'm going to give up commenting for the duration.

Whiskey said...

If you read Misha Glenny (BBC Journalist, and all that entails both good and bad) two books Dark Market and McMafia, the real money and least risk is in ... credit and debit card fraud. There are even markets in Ukraine and Russia where you can sell thousands/millions of credit cards and associated data.

Compare/contrast the risk of say, penetrating a store's security system at Aaron Brothers Art Mart, using the access to gain access to the corporate system, and then gathering up the credit card info and selling it in Russia. You can hack into their wifi from across the street (cops think this is what happened, outside the view of security cameras); and at no time and place risk physical presence at any transaction.

FWIW, this robbery seems both an inside job and one done by an organized crime syndicate that specializes in take-over robberies. One thing that stands out in Glenny's McMafia is the specialization that organized crime groups have: Balkans guys mostly run cigarettes, Russians women to Dubai and elsewhere (sex slavery), Ukranians for cyberfraud, etc.

mel belli said...

re crime, a libertarian law professor thinks it's no longer an issue:


http://www.volokh.com/2013/02/18/republican-party-doing-surprisingly-well-from-at-least-one-perspective/

Anonymous said...

What was it Hans Gruber said?

"When you steal $600, you can just disappear. When you steal 600 million, they will find you, unless they think you're already dead."

Eric said...

Eight masked men with machine guns held the ground staff, crew and passengers at gunpoint as they forced security workers to open the plane's cargo door.

What are the odds eight guys can keep a secret?

Marlowe said...

"Whenever we needed money, we'd rob the airport. To us, it was better than Citibank."

Jimmy's crew didn't seem all that classy.

Anonymous said...

"What are the odds eight guys can keep a secret?" - About 350M / 8.

TontoBubbaGoldstein said...

What was it Hans Gruber said?

""When you steal $600, you can just disappear. When you steal 600 million, they will find you, unless they think you're already dead.""


Roger "Verbal" Kint, Archie Leach, and Wanda Gershwitz beg to differ....

Anonymous said...

What are the odds eight guys can keep a secret?

It was an organized crime job. This wasn't eight buddies deciding to do this on a lark.

Grumpy Old Man said...

Zoes Fokkers vas flying Messerschmidts!

Anonymous said...

Hey Albertosaurus! Putin's friend Lev Leviev helped to break De Beers monopoly and secure the Diamonds in the former Soviet Union so not to crash the Market.

Svigor said...

the real money and least risk is in ...

Wall Street.

Svigor said...

So, my comments are going to the shitter again?

Thx Google! Just kidding. Fuck you, Google.

Steve Sailer said...

Yup, Google dumped two of Svigor's comments in the Spam folder, even though almost nothing else goes there these days.

Svigor, it's personal.

This is not to say that Google qua Google is targeting Svigor, just that individuals within Google have a lot of unaccountable power to flip minor switches against people they don't like. We've seen it with Pat Buchanan and Glenn Beck before. And since nobody in the MSM ever calls Google out on this abuse of power by individual workers within Google, it just goes on and on.

Anonymous said...

"This is not to say that Google qua Google is targeting Svigor, just that individuals within Google have a lot of unaccountable power to flip minor switches against people they don't like. We've seen it with Pat Buchanan and Glenn Beck before. And since nobody in the MSM ever calls Google out on this abuse of power by individual workers within Google, it just goes on and on."

Your attitude has been noted, Mr,. Sailer...

Eric said...

It was an organized crime job. This wasn't eight buddies deciding to do this on a lark.

I wonder which one was Mr Pink.

Anonymous said...

Oddly, it tends to restore my faith in humanity. It's a smarter, better sort of thief who robs from other thieves (in this case, the diamond cartel).

I'm in perverse agreement. Intelligent criminality, like other forms of intelligence, is dead in America beyond the herd-like institutional kind of Washington and Wall Street.

Alfa158 said...

There was a good segment on the diamond trade on 60 minutes a few years back where they followed a NY dealer around.
1. Yes they do speak Yiddish in Antwerp. The business is entirely for insiders and you only get into the business when they tell you that you may.
2. Price fixing is an iron law. When the dealer went into a DeBeers facility to buy diamonds, the selling agent offered folded packets of paper each holding a selection of diamonds and stated the price for each packet. (Stones always go into a piece of paper and it is always folded exactly the same way.) The buyer was allowed to inspect the stones in the packets but could not select which ones he wanted, or pick others from the inventory, and there is no price negotiation. He either leaves with the diamond packet(s) offered or walks away.
3. Because the business is so insular, the seller does not collect any payment on the spot. It is assumed that the buyer will transfer the money next chance he gets.

Anthony said...

This has to have been some sort of inside job. The question is which insider? y thoughts:

1) It's insurance fraud. The shipper tipped off the gangsters to the shipment, and will get some of the diamonds back, as well as a full insurance payout.

2) Someone at the shipping company was suborned by some sort of organized crime. It won't have been someone working for the guys sending (or receiving) the diamonds; they're all family.

Anonymous said...

I would bet my bottom dollar that this gang of eight are all of the same racial and cultural background. But of course if Hollywood ever tells this story they will be as diverse as a rainbow. And undoubtedly the "Belgian" detective who solves the case will be some ultra cool, bad-ass black guy.

BTW, I have to tip my hat to these guys. Thieves robbing even bigger thieves!

Mr. Anon said...

"Eric said...

What are the odds eight guys can keep a secret?"

The odds go up if several of them end up dead. According to "Goodfellas", that's what happened after the Lufthansa heist in 1977. No honor among thieves.

Chicago said...

Probably ex-soldiers from the Balkans put together by an organizer. Of course reliable inside information had to have been gotten somewhere. Also, they can't just sell the diamonds on a street corner. They have a buyer that can absorb this amount and move it without raising suspicion, thus the fence would be located within the higher end of the diamond business themselves.

Eric said...

Also, they can't just sell the diamonds on a street corner.

Presumably the thieves have already lined up a buyer. If it were me I'd ship them to Africa to be "mined". They'll probably end up back on the very same flight.

The article doesn't have much information on the diamonds. Uncut diamonds are untraceable.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing this is an inside job. For one, this story reminds me of the Lufthansa robbery depicted in Goodfellas; somebody on the inside probably knew all the procedures and timetables and leaked them to organized crime, who set up the heist. Secondly, I know for a fact that thefts for insurance money are an important part of diamond dealers' profit margins in hard economic times. Diamond couriers are being ripped off all the time in the NY diamond district. Usually a low level employee at Tiffany's or Harry Winston's is told to walk down to 47th St to pick up a package; on the return trip they get waylaid by someone who comes out of an alley with a gun. Nobody gets hurt, and the same package of stones gets sold three or four times to the insurance company before the diamonds finally make their way into settings. It's so brazen I think the insurance companies are in on it too.

MacGoogle said...

That's it - all searches for "Steve Sailer" will henceforth turn up Tim Wise's site and Matt Yglesias's blog. You can't say you weren't warned. If only you'd chosen not to be evil, this could have been avoided.

Anonymous said...

"What are the odds eight guys can keep a secret?"

Expecting 7 cold bodies?

Beefy Levinson said...

Some of the old timey mobsters like Capone and Siegel had a shrewd business sense, but Moriarty-style criminal masterminds are virtually nonexistent. Can you imagine how dull the Law & Order franchise would be if they portrayed the typical New York criminal in every episode? I bet real NYPD cops are almost giddy when they can catch a white collar crook as a way to break the tedium of frisking black and Puerto Rican gang bangers.

Truth said...

"Yup, Google dumped two of Svigor's comments in the Spam folder, even though almost nothing else goes there these days."

Hey, google must have good mediators.

Svigor said...

Steve, just FYI, but I think the filter works on my blog's URL. The comment I made that didn't include it didn't go to the spam folder, right?

No biggie, really. If your enemies don't hate you, you're doing something wrong.

Anonymous said...

This is not to say that Google qua Google is targeting Svigor, just that individuals within Google have a lot of unaccountable power to flip minor switches against people they don't like.

I'm sure Sergey Brin and Larry Page would be outraged if they knew what was going on.