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Suspects behind daring Helvetic diamond heist could face eight years in prison

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Suspects behind daring Helvetic diamond heist could face eight years in prison
File shot of a Helvetic Airways plane at Geneva Airport. Photo: AFP
10:47 CET+01:00
Belgian public prosecutors have called for suspected members of a gang of thieves who disguised themselves as police and stole diamonds, gold bars and other gems worth over 50 million francs from a Helvetic Airways plane in Brussels in 2013 to be jailed for up to eight years.
Prosecutors want the chief suspect in the robbery, Frenchmen Marc Bertoldi, to serve eight years behind bars while they are calling for other suspects who are alleged to have received stolen diamonds to be handed suspended sentences of one to five years.
 
The 2013 airport robbery was described at the time by the global diamond dealers' syndicate as one of the biggest ever gem thefts.
 
A gang of eight hooded thieves drove onto the runway in two black vehicles with blue police-like markings, forcing open the plane's cargo hold to steal rough and cut gems. 
 
No shots were fired and no one was injured. The robbery was over in minutes.
 
Several months later Belgian, French and Swiss police recovered part of the stolen gems and cash in a vast cross-border operation and made a number of arrests. Diamonds valued at around 7 million francs were recovered from the cellar of a house in the Champel neighbourhood of Geneva belonging to a property developer with links to Bertoldi, according to Swiss online news site 20 minutes.
 
Bertoldi, currently serving jail time in France on another conviction, has admitted to receiving stolen diamonds from a contact but denies having taken part in the robbery.
 
Swiss International Air Lines, the operator of the Helvetic Airways plane involved in the incident, is also demanding 48.4 million francs in compensation, it emerged recently.
 
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