Pink diamond plot thickens

London - The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the rare pink diamond, worth some R42 million, on a flight between Zurich and Johannesburg, has deepened.

Brink's, world leader in the transport of valuable articles, to their embarrassment admitted that the 162 carat diamond got lost "somewhere between Switzerland and South Africa".

Brink's placed an advertisement in Swiss newspapers offering a reward of R2.3 million for the diamond to be returned.

The diamond was last seen on a flight between Geneva and Zurich on January 23. Upon the arrival of the aeroplane in Johannesburg from Zurich, it had vanished.

The diamond, described as "unbelievably bright and rare", was probably mined in Australia. Properly cut and polished, it could fetch up to R90 million on the black market.

Brink's spokesperson Nicholas Trowbridge said the theft was the work of professional thieves. "We are grateful that nobody got hurt."

Diamond experts were of the opinion that the thieves probably did not possess the equipment to cut the diamond.

A London jeweller said the appearance of the stone could be changed by proper cutting and polishing, but a professional cutter could take months to decide how to approach the work, which depended on the structure of the uncut stone. It could take years before the stone appeared on the black market, whether in one piece or in many.

'Disappeared in Zurich'

The South African police were convinced that the diamond, a little smaller than a matchbox, disappeared in Zurich before the empty container was flown to Johannesburg by Swiss Air.

It was flown from Geneva to Zurich on January 23, and on to South Africa the following day to be cut.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Sipho Ngubane said the diamond was packed in a small box that was again packed into two canvas bags. The package was locked in the front of the aeroplane in the diplomatic safe, along with weapons and other valuable articles.

The package arrived at Johannesburg International Airport at 9.10pm on January 24. It was collected by Brink's, world-wide couriers of gold and diamonds, and taken to the Diamond Corner building in Johannesburg's city centre. There it was opened in the presence of the South African Diamond Board, the courier and the cutter.

Tampered With

"One could clearly see that the package was tampered with.

"There was a hole in the outer canvas bag, even though the seal wasn't broken. The outside seal was broken, and the box was completely empty," a Johannesburg Airport detective said.

"The only possibility is that the package was tampered with while it stood over in Zurich for 16 hours, before the flight left for Johannesburg," he added.

The owner of the rare pink diamond is a company from the British Virgin Islands. The company says the diamond looks like a pink stone, weighs 162.5 carats and is worth some R80 million. Its origins are unknown.

The Johannesburg gold and diamond branch were investigating the matter.

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