Two men aged 22 and 26, from Belgium, who used a sledgehammer to smash the window of a jeweler, were arrested in the Netherlands.
Armed robbers broke into Maastricht, the Netherlands’ art and antiques fair in broad daylight on Tuesday (June 28), one of the largest in the world, using a sledgehammer to smash through a jeweler’s window , before fleeing with “loot”.
Police said they stopped a car and arrested two Belgians after four men in smart clothes, caps and glasses robbed Tefaf (The European Fine Art Fair) in the southwest of the Netherlands.
Dramatic video circulating on social media shows the four men smashing through a Tefaf storefront and threatening the crowd with what appear to be handguns, before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of what police called a “booty”. “There were four suspects, two were arrested”Wim Coenen, spokesman for the Limburg provincial police, told AFP.
The theft led to the evacuation of the premises but the fair, which attracts tens of thousands of people over several days, finally reopened. No one was injured, police said.
According to Dutch media, the shop window targeted by the burglars contained diamond jewelery and other treasures from a London jeweler, Symbolic and Chase. The company did not react. Police confirmed in a statement that “jewels were stolen”, without giving further details. The Dutch daily NRC reported that a person present near the exhibitor who had just been held up claimed that a necklace “worth 27 million euros” was stolen. A spokesperson for the fair did not “neither confirmed nor denied”according to NRC.
Helicopter and sniffer dogs
Dutch police launched an extensive search operation involving a helicopter and sniffer dogs and quickly arrested two men, aged 22 and 26, from Belgium. They were driving a gray vehicle registered in Belgium which was intercepted, and their “possible involvement is still under investigation”said the police.
Tefaf is one of the largest art fairs and features hundreds of works, including a 17th century paintinge century of a great Dutch master, displayed at one million euros.
Footage circulating on social media showed the chaos caused at the fair by the thieves. One of them smashed a jewelry display case to earth, banging on what appeared to be armored glass at least 12 times while the alarm sounded. The grounded man eventually managed to smash through the display case, reaching inside to take something out and place it in a bag. Then the thieves ran away, passing near a dumbfounded old man who had to sit on a bench during these events. Two of the men brandished what looked like pistols at a man who tried to step in, armed with a large glass vase full of flowers, before backing away from the threat.
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Jos Stassen, a visitor, had come on Tuesday June 28 hoping to admire works of art in peace. “Suddenly I heard a lot of noise, I turned around and suddenly I saw these men”he told public radio OURstating that the robbers “keep people at a distance” and “scared everyone”. “It went very quickly (..) but I’m still shaking a little”he added.
The owners of the destroyed stand are “very shocked”according to the general manager of the fair, Bart Drenth, quoted by the Dutch press agency ANP, while stressing that the security protocol has worked well.
The expression “Peaky Blinders” went viral on Dutch social media, because the caps worn by the thieves resembled those of the eponymous British crime gang, made famous by a series of the same name.
This is not the first time that Tefaf has been targeted by criminals. In 2011, a diamond and a diamond-encrusted necklace worth 860,000 euros were stolen, again from a jeweler from London.
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