Diamond heist trial delayed as chief suspect is in prison in France

Summary

Nineteen people are accused of involvement in the robbery at Brussels Airport four years ago, but the trial due to begin on 11 September is being postponed

No extradition

The trial of 19 people accused of involvement in a diamond robbery at Brussels Airport in 2013 will be postponed, as the chief suspect is in prison in France and cannot be extradited to Belgium.

The robbery took place on 18 February 2013, when eight armed men wearing police uniforms drove on to the tarmac at the airport and held up a Swiss flight. They made off with €37 million in diamonds that were being transported to Zurich.

The charges against the 16 men and three women on trial include being accomplices in organising the robbery and disposing of the stolen goods, as well as carrying out the robbery. The trial was due to begin on 11 September, but chief suspect Marc Bertoldi is in prison in France after being sentenced to eight years for involvement in a kidnapping.

He has appealed the conviction, and the case will be heard later in September. In the meantime, he cannot be handed over to the Belgian authorities.

According to his lawyer, the French prosecutor’s office was willing to meet the request from its counterparts in Halle-Vilvoorde, but the ministry of justice could find no legal basis to justify the transfer.

“It is possible to extradite a suspect in the course of an investigation, for example to question him,” lawyer Dimitri de Béco (pictured) explained. “But it cannot be done to have him tried.”

If Bertoldi is acquitted on appeal, he will be able to stand trial in Brussels. If the trial goes ahead without him, de Béco said, “that would be a grave infringement of his right to a defence.”

Photo: Kristof Van Accom/BELGA