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Antwerp's Indian community in shock over robbery

The Indian community of diamond merchants in Antwerp is reeling with shock after a robbery at the home of an Indian here.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2006 11:48 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

The Indian community of flourishing diamond merchants in Belgium's business capital is reeling with shock after a murderous robbery at the home of an Indian here.

A 60-year-old Indian diamantaire and his 55-year-old wife, who live in Antwerp's wealthy suburb of Wilrijk, had just finished entertaining some guests over for a weekend dinner.

The couple and a 38-year-old female visitor from India, who was staying with them, were enjoying the rare Belgian summer heat and getting ready to retire to bed when four masked and armed men leaped out from behind them.

They pressed a gun against the diamantaire's head, forcing him to fall on the grass. The two women were also made to fall in a similar fashion.

The traumatising event, which took place just after midnight, lasted around two hours during which the couple was brutally beaten, threatened with their lives and robbed of their valuables by the men.

The robbers later boldly walked out the front door in-spite of the presence of a private security vehicle that kept watch on their street.

The victims did not want their identity to be disclosed.

Some 500 Indian families, who control 60 per cent of Antwerp's rough and polished diamond trade worth $36 billion, are shocked by the event.

Some of them had moved to Belgium in the 1980s when Antwerp was a safe haven of peace and prosperity and many, including the couple, had never felt the need to take measures to secure their homes with alarm systems.

Crime figures in Belgium have rapidly risen over the last 10 years and while thefts and robberies have taken place in Indian households, such severe cases have been unheard of.

Antwerp's Chief of Police Roger Wouters, who is looking into this case, said: "We understand the Indian community is shocked because Belgium is a safe land. This is a very serious situation."

The distressed woman who has called Antwerp home for the last 30 years or so, told the agency: "We are such a peace loving community. We have never even hurt a dog."

"Why would people want to live here with this kind of risk when they contribute so much to the economy."

Stepping up security has been on the diamond community's to-do list for a long time. Offices in Antwerp's diamond market have also been plagued by safe heists of massive proportion in the last five-six years.

The Indo-Belgian Diamantaire Association together with like minded diamond and coloured stone associations in Antwerp have organised a seminar next week to raise awareness of such events and as well as adequate security measures.

First Published: Jun 16, 2006 11:48 IST