Diamond Dealer on His Robbery Plot: 'Incomprehensible'

He claimed robbers forced him to open vault
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 11, 2022 9:20 AM CST
Diamond Dealer on His Robbery Plot: 'Incomprehensible'
Police released this photo of the staged robbery.   (Netherlands police)

A Dutch diamond dealer has been found guilty of a plot he says he now finds "incomprehensible." Martin Van Gelder, 55, staged an armed robbery of one of the family firm's stores in which insured diamonds worth almost $5 million were taken, the Guardian reports. He claimed that three robbers had forced him to open a vault, then tied him up and locked him in it—though, conveniently, they didn't take his phone and he was able to call his daughter for help. He was arrested months after the 2016 "robbery" and eventually confessed that it was an insurance scam and that he had let his accomplices into the vault. Van Gelder Diamonds repaid the insurance company but the stolen gems, which he let the men keep, were never recovered.

Van Gelder was found guilty of fraud and money laundering and sentenced to six months in prison, with more than half the sentence suspended. He also has to perform 240 hours of community services. At a Feb. 24 hearing in Amsterdam, he said he had been facing financial difficulties at the time he hatched the scheme, but he now realizes the problems weren't as bad as he imagined, NH Nieuws reports. "Because I did not express my concerns, fears and tensions, they grew," he said. "If I had talked about it with one person, it would not have happened. I did something terrible." One of his three accomplices, identified as Danny S, received a 90-day suspended sentence. The other two were never caught.

The staged robbery led to a large-scale police investigation. Het Parool reported at the time that police became suspicious when Van Gelder told investigators that the robbers had spoken languages including Romanian and Arabic, though police had never known Moroccan and Romanian crime gangs in the Netherlands to work together. Investigators said Danny S, who had secretly taken photos during the fake robbery as an "insurance policy" because fraud isn't punished as severely as robbery, tried to blackmail Van Gelder after the crime. Van Gelder ran the business for around 10 years. After the arrest, his father, who is now in his 80s, apologized for his son's actions and said he was taking charge of the family business again. (Read more Netherlands stories.)

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