Belgian Diamond Heist Could Hurt Trade

By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times
February 20, 2013 Updated: October 1, 2015
Diamond Polisher in Antwerp
A stock photo of a diamond polisher in Antwerp, Belgium. One of the largest diamond heists in history took place at the Brussels International Airport on Feb. 18, 2013, which could have a negative impact on Antwerp's position as global diamond trade hub. (Mark Renders/Getty Images)

Antwerp, Belgium is currently the leading hub of the global diamond trade, but Monday’s heist of about $50 million-worth of diamonds could give the competition in Dubai and Asia an upper hand.

“We do fear the damage for Antwerp, the world’s leading trade center, is significant,” said Caroline De Wolf, spokesperson for the Antwerp World Diamond Center in a statement

In Project 2020, a plan developed by Belgian diamond industry leaders in 2012, security is listed as a major factor in ensuring the continued strength of the country’s diamond trade. 

The diamond trade brings approximately $56 billion (42 billion euro) in annual business to Belgium, contributing to 70 percent of the country’s trade balance, according to the report. De Wolf said 8 out of every 10 rough and half-polished diamonds are traded in Antwerp. 

The heist, which took place as a Brinks truck was transporting the diamonds at Brussels International Airport Monday night, could be a blow to the industry, and provide a foothold for Belgium’s competitors.

Dubai’s diamond trade increased by almost 60 percent from 2010 to 2011, with a value of $25.3 billion in annual revenue, according to the Dubai Multi Commodities Center. India and other Asian competitors are also gaining strength.

The recent heist in Belgium will cause a temporary shortage in India, however, as the load was India-bound, reports the Wall Street Journal. 

The Security Charter drafted in Project 2020 notes that insurance rates will likely be affected by any security issues.

“To date, Antwerp is the most highly secured diamond center in the entire, global industry, guaranteeing a safe business environment and safe transport of the vast stream of valuable goods to and from Antwerp,” De Wolf said, adding that she hopes security measures will be increased. 

Belgium’s Minister of State for Transport, Melchior Wathelet, said the government will consider whether police should guard security trucks carrying diamonds instead of airport security personnel, according to The Globe and Mail.

“We won’t take any risks with the security of travellers or workers,” Wathelet said. About 1.1 million passengers traveled through Brussels International Airport in January.