Armed robbery at TEFAF, our reconstruction and latest developments

Jun 28, 2022 | Cutural Heritage

At least four men entered undisturbed around 11:30h am on Tuesday 28th June, the third opening day, into the largest art and antiques fair in Europe, where billions of euros worth of items are on sale.

The booth before and after the robbery

The four, bare-faced, beret and jacket, dressed like the characters of Peaky Blinders, raided the stand of the antiques dealer and jeweler Symbolic & Chaise, famous for its large diamonds. The criminals have made a loot of at least 30 million euros (the official figures have not yet been disclosed), from what can be seen from the videos shot with  mobile phones, that have been circulating on the net.

In fact, we see a man putting a long necklace into a bag and another grabbing from the shopwindow which contained at least two pieces of great value. That is a pair of earrings with Burmese sapphires and diamonds, for a value of 15 million euros, the famous Richelieu Sapphires, coming from Cashmere, accidentally discovered during a landslide, among the rarest gems in the world. This pair of sapphires cufflinks have only been reassembled 3 times, most recently by Cartier in 1905.

In the same shopwindow there was another pair of earrings, with 15.28 carat and 16.01 carat brilliant cut diamonds – color D, flawless purity, worth € 5 million. The stand was, however, full of many other jewels of great value and from the images you can see at least one other broken window. They evidently knew what they were looking for.

Bystanders who tried to intervene were threatened with a weapon. The attack was a matter of seconds, the videos show about 30sec, the whole event took place in about 1 minute. However, the premises of the fair are not huge and the robbery took place a few meters from the entrance where the staff for security checks were present. It is incredible how, despite the alarm siren being heard, the guards did not arrive in time and the four were able to escape without obstacles. Did they have an insider?

Certainly impressive their calm in carrying out the coup, and also that of the few visitors and exhibitors, we do not know if petrified by fear. After the robbery they headed for the restaurant and from there to the outside.

At the fair there are also jewelers with even more important pieces, but for Londoners Symbolic & Chase probably played against the position within the fair. In fact, it can be seen that the stands belonging to the La Haute Joaillerie category, such as Van Cleef & Arpels or Boghossian, are grouped away from the restaurant area, near which the attacked stand is. The catering part is naturally in a convenient position for supplier access, and therefore close to the secondary exits.

The local police blocked all access roads to the fair and the A2, one of the main Dutch  arteries, which connects Maastricht with the rest of Holland and Belgium. They later in the day issued a statement saying they had stopped two men aged 22 and 26 in a gray car with a foreign license plate, however they have been released yesterday. It seems the 4 of them have managed to escape. If the first reactions to the news were of disbelief, the applause for the evacuation system for visitors to the fair seems above all disconcerting. A stolen piece of jewelry is certainly much easier to dispose of and sell, and therefore more attractive, than a painting or an object in bronze or porcelain. However, there is an understandable sense of bewilderment in a large part of the exhibitors.

Will they come back next year?

(Anna Pelagotti)