A thief has evaded one of the world's most expensive hi-tech security systems, and made off with â‚¬21m (£14.5m) worth of diamonds – thanks to a secret weapon rarely used on bank staff: personal charm.
In what may be the biggest robbery committed by one person, the conman burgled safety deposit boxes at an ABN Amro bank in Antwerp's diamond quarter, stealing gems weighing 120,000 carats. Posing as a successful businessman, the thief visited the bank frequently, befriending staff and gradually winning their confidence. He even brought them chocolates, according to one diamond industry official.
Now, embarrassed bank staff in Belgium's second city are wondering how they had been hoodwinked into giving a man with a false Argentine passport access to their vaults.
The prime suspect had been a regular customer at the bank for the past year, giving his name as Carlos Hector Flomenbaum from Argentina. The authorities, who have offered a â‚¬2m reward for information leading to an arrest, now know that a passport in that name was stolen in Israel a few years ago. Although not familiar to the local diamond dealers, the conman became one of several trusted traders given an electronic card to access the bank vault. The heist, believed to have been more than a year in the planning, has astounded diamond dealers.
Being psychic, I sense a movie coming.