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Diamond heist Geneva accused escapes prison sentence

The entrance of the Palais de Justice courthouse building in Geneva, where the court was sitting

(Keystone)

The Geneva estate agent who hid jewels from a spectacular Brussels diamond heist in his cellar has been given a two-year suspended sentence.

A court in Genevaexternal link found the 61-year-old man guilty of receiving stolen goods and money laundering.

Judges revealed that the stones, valued at almost $7 million (CHF7.2 million), had been hidden for almost two months in a building in the Champel district of Geneva.

“The severity of the crime is important,” the judges said. But they conceded that the man had acted in a helping capacity, rather than for financial gain.

The person standing trial, a Geneva lawyer accused of attempting to obstruct the course of justice, was sentenced to 180 suspended day-fines (a cash penalty based on personal income). Two other accused, acquaintances of the estate agent, who had each tried to buy a diamond, were acquitted of receiving stolen goods.

Daring heist

In May 2013 police in Switzerland, Belgium and France detained more than 30 people in connection with a spectacular €40 million (CHF44 million) diamond theft at Brussels airport in February of that year. Diamonds and cash were recovered in Geneva.

According to the investigators, the jewels were among those stolen in Brussels. The Geneva judicial authorities were tipped off by the arrival of an organised crime figure in the city not long after the heist.

The diamonds 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.

They drove onto the tarmac, approached the plane, brandished machine guns, offloaded the diamonds, then made what seemed at the time to be a clean getaway. The entire operation is said to have taken five minutes.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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