1. ITV Report

Eighteen suspects cleared over multimillion-pound 'Ocean’s Eleven' diamond heist at Brussels airport

A fence was cut next to the tarmac at Brussels airport during the heist. Credit: AP

A court has acquitted 18 people suspected of involvement in a multimillion-pound diamond heist at Brussels Airport.

The 2013 theft, in which tens of millions worth of gems were stolen from the hold of a Swiss-bound plane, had all the hallmarks of an Ocean’s Eleven operation.

One other person, suspected of being the mastermind, is still to have his case heard.

The diamond heist was estimated at £37 million at the time and was one of the biggest of recent times.

Its clockwork precision led many to compare it to the plot of the 2001 Vegas heist movie, Ocean’s Eleven, starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.

On February 18, 2013, several parcels of diamonds were driven from the global diamond centre of Antwerp and had been loaded on a plane bound for Zurich when robbers, dressed in dark police clothing and hoods, drove through a hole they had cut in the airport fence in two black cars with blue police lights flashing.

Millions' of dollars worth of diamonds were stolen from a Helvetic Airways aircraft. Credit: AP

They approached the plane, brandished machine guns, offloaded the diamonds and then left, all in barely five minutes. Later that night, investigators found the charred remains of a van used in the heist.

Three months later, authorities detained several dozen people and recovered some of the diamonds.

The court case in Brussels was supposed to bring closure, but the acquittals have only added to the mystery.

Defence lawyer Nathalie Gallant said the verdicts were not a surprise.

She said: “With such a case, it was not possible for a tribunal as competent as this one to condemn anyone.”

Dimitri de Beco, the lawyer for the lone other suspect, said he was “pretty sure the same will apply to my client as well,” arguing the case was not strong enough.

Thursday’s decision can still be appealed.

Workers place concrete blocks to prevent access through a security fence. Credit: Belgium Diamond Heist