Basel thieves steal four diamonds worth millions

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Robbery sees halls closed in attempt to catch gang.

Diamonds worth several millions of pounds were stolen from a stand at the BaselWorld show yesterday morning, following a successful distraction-type robbery which could have involved up to five people.

It is believed that Messika’s stand had screws removed from its showcases during the night, and the following morning the glass was lifted with $15m (£9.3m) worth of diamonds stolen.

Markus Melzl, spokesman of Basel’s prosecutor’s office said: "On Wednesday, 30 March 2011, at around 11:00 am, one of the as yet still unidentified perpetrators distracted an employee of a diamond trader in the exhibition hall 3.0, and stole four diamonds worth millions from the display window."

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Following the robbery – which took place in the Jewellery & Related Products hall, home to fine diamonds and gemstones, the hall was closed for 30 minutes to prevent the theives from escaping – but it appeared they had already fled the building.

"Apparently, the perpetrators successfully left the hall with the stolen goods," said Melzl. "Three diverted the attention of the diamond trader’s employees, while two others opened the showcase," he said.

There is a suggestion that the theives had already scouted out the stand in the days before, enabling them to plan the robbery and escape easily. Melzl described the robbery as very professional.

Melzl noted that the Israeli trader realised the diamonds were missing about 15 minutes after the robboery took place, giving the theives plenty of time to get away.

Police are examining closed-circuit camera footage and looking into possible DNA traces and fingerprints.

Some 1,892 exhibitors from 45 countries, including luxury brands such as Chopard, Patek Philippe, and Rolex as well as jewellery makers like Bulgari and Tiffany, are showcasing their latest creations over 160,000 square metres at the Baselworld fair until Thursday.

The fair, which is open to the public, has been the targeted by thieves on several occasions. In 2009, a robber stole 13 million francs (10 million euros) of jewellery, but was rapidly caught. In 2007, thieves made away with more than a million francs worth of jewellery.

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