Europe

Belgium: Man thanks judge for diamond robbery sentence

Marc Bertoldi after his arrest in 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The presiding judge said Marc Bertoldi was "an indispensible cog" in the huge robbery

A Frenchman has been given five years in jail for his role in a $50m (£39m) diamond robbery at Brussels airport in 2013.

Marc Bertoldi replied "thanks, goodbye" when the judge told him he had a month to appeal against the ruling.

The robbery was one of the biggest in history, with Belgian media calling it "the heist of the century."

More than 30 people were detained in Belgium, France and Switzerland in connection with the crime.

In February 2013 a gang of men, armed with machine-guns, posed as police officers and pulled up in a vehicle on the runway at Brussels' Zaventem airport.

They then broke into the cargo of a Swiss-bound plane and took about 120 boxes of diamonds before escaping with the huge haul, most of which has never been found.

Police later found a burned-out vehicle close to the airport.

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Media captionJan Van der Cruysse, Brussels airport: "Quick hit-and-run, very well-organised"

Bertoldi denied he had taken part in the robbery, telling the court he had only received some of the stolen diamonds.

The presiding judge accepted Bertoldi did not personally participate in all of the offences, but ruled he had still been "an indispensable cog" in the theft.

Bertoldi's lawyer Dimitri de Beco told AFP: "It's clear. He is not the mastermind of the robbery. That gives us some satisfaction."

An investigation showed that Bertoldi, who was arrested in France in May 2013, had had extensive phone contact with the alleged mastermind, Houssein Bajjadi, in the lead up to the robbery.

Bajjadi and the 10 other accused are to face a retrial after the prosecution appealed against their acquittal.

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