Belgian authorities were hunting eight men Tuesday who robbed an aircraft at Brussels Airport of $50 million in diamonds, CNN reported.
The heavily armed suspects arrived in two vehicles, cut a hole in a security fence and drove up to the aircraft as a Brinks transport truck on the tarmac was unloading its contents into the Swiss aircraft, which was en route from Antwerp, Belgium, to Zurich, Switzerland.
The thieves took only three minutes before speeding away. No shots were fired during the robbery.
Police found a burned-out van near the airport late Monday night, Sky News said. Authorities said the suspects had laser-sights on their weapons as they hit the aircraft, which was scheduled to depart for Zurich at 8:05 p.m. local time.
The robbers used a Mercedes van to break through the security fence and escaped in an Audi disguised as a police car with blue flashing lights.
The cache of stones were contained in 120 small parcels of uncut and polished diamonds, the Telegraph said.
"This was a very precise, almost military-organized and well-executed robbery," Jan Van der Cruysse, an airport spokesman, told CNN. "We are an airport that is, as all international airports are, subject to very strict aviation security and safety regulations.”
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre said that besides diamonds, gold and platinum were also stolen. It also said that, on average, about $200 million in jewels comes through the airport each day.
A spokeswoman for the centre said prospects for recovering the diamonds was “very small,” the Telegraph reported.
The flight, which was operated by Helvetic Airways, was canceled.
British aviation security consultant Philip Baum told the Associated Press that the heist was troubling not because the fence was breached, but because the response did not appear to have been immediate.
"It does seem very worrying that someone can actually have the time to drive two vehicles onto the airport, effect the robbery, and drive out without being intercepted," Baum said.