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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Belgium arrests baggage handlers
diamond
Belgium is a centre for the global diamond industry
Police have arrested five baggage-handlers at Brussels airport on suspicion of stealing diamonds worth 1.5 million euros ($1.48m) from mailbags.

Three are suspected of stealing the precious stones from bags being loaded onto aircraft while the other two are charged with receiving stolen goods, police said.

Diamond mine
Belgium has the world's biggest diamond industry, based in the port town of Antwerp
It distributes 80 % of the global production of uncut diamonds
Security was recently tightened at Belgian airports after an embarrassing spate of armed robberies
The arrests came on Saturday following 20 thefts over a period of several months in which the bags - still containing other items of mail - were discarded or concealed at the airport.

After catching one of the suspects in the act, police tracked down the other four and recovered diamonds and 60,000 euros in cash in raids in Brussels and the southern city of Namur.

Investigators have yet to establish the origin of the stones but they disappeared from mail being sent to destinations in Switzerland, Spain and Sweden.

The thefts took place during March and April of this year.

See also:

11 Feb 02 | England
08 Aug 02 | Country profiles
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